The Czech Republic’s TV industry is undoubtedly in much better shape now than it was 18 months ago.
That was the clear conclusion of this week’s Broadband TV News/Telenor Satellite Broadcasting Business Breakfast in Prague.
In late 2007, when we held our first such event in the Czech capital, there were still doubts as to the future of a number of new digital TV channels. Digital cable was in its early stages, while the take-up of DTH services had slowed considerably. Moreover, HD channels, though already available in some other CEE countries, still appeared a distant prospect.
The picture is in many respects very different today. Some of those digital TV channels (Z1 and TV Barrandov) are now up and running, UPC has around 350,000 digital cable subscribers, Skylink has emerged as the clear market leader in the DTH sector and HD channels are offered by most platforms.
With the country’s leading broadcaster TV Nova now fully on board in the digitalisation process, there was considerable interest at the event in its plans for the future. Petr Dvorak, the station’s CEO, spoke about its desire to offer HD channels, especially in the lucrative Prague market.
Certainly, with the Time Warner/CME deal having closed this week, the likelihood of TV Nova and its sister stations in CEE launching new thematic channels in the months to come is now much higher.
Jaromir Glisnik, the MD of TradeTec, meanwhile said that Skylink is now the fastest growing DTH platform in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, having added, on average, 25,000 subscribers a month in the last 12 months.
He also pointed out that Skylink is the only provider of HD services covering the whole of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Perhaps the most tangible evidence of progress in the past 18 months has been the rollout of DTT services. Although the Czech Republic has set a still relatively distant November 2011 as its ASO date, with the last two analogue transmitters being switched off in mid-2012, the transition to digital broadcasting is gathering momentum.
Indeed, Prague has been entirely digital since the beginning of this month, and Plzen, another major city, is set to follow later this year.