2009 is proving to be year of fascinating change for Romania’s TV industry.
The latest developments focus on the incumbent telco Romtelecom, which is backed by its Greek counterpart OTE and ultimately Deutsche Telekom.
Earlier this month it was reported that the company ended the second quarter with its DTH platform Dolce, launched in late 2006, claiming 780,000 subscribers, or 48% more than 12 months earlier.
What is more, Dolce, along with Digi TV, the rival service operated by RCS/RDS, now account for all but 300,000 of Romania’s 2.2 million DTH households.
However, the take-up of DTH in what is already a saturated market, served by no fewer than five platforms, is starting to slow. In Q2, Dolce secured an additional 56,000 subscribers, as opposed to 81,000 in the previous quarter.
Focus Sat, which is operated by UPC, meanwhile gained only 500 in Q2.
Faced with this slowdown Romtelecom has decided to take the step of re-entering the cable market, currently dominated by RCS/RDS and UPC, and in which it held a presence through an operator named Cable Vision of Romania up until 2005.
It has done so by buying up a number of networks hitherto owned by the alternative telco New Com. Scaling back its operations for financial reasons, the latter has also sold some networks to RCS/RDS.
Interestingly, it is believed that Romtelecom might be cooling its interest in launching an IPTV service, certainly one operating on a national basis. Instead, it may try to re-focus its activities on cable.
Romtelecom is in fact already operating a cable company named NextGen Communications. Established last year, it is providing triple play in four small locations and has in the region of 30,000 subscribers.
Romania is a cutthroat market, with competition, based chiefly on price, between RCS/RDS, UPC and Romtelecom growing ever more intense.
Although the near-duopoly status enjoyed by the first two in the cable industry is unlikely to be challenged any time soon, Romtelecom is certainly catching up with its rivals in the wider pay-TV/multiplay arena.