Hungary’s cable industry currently finds itself in a state of transition and facing much fiercer competition than ever.
These were the impressions that came across at this week’s annual HCA/HCTA conference, held at the Balaton resort town of Tihany.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of news to emerge from the event – the implications of which have yet to be fully worked out by the industry – were the decision by T-Kábel and FiberNet, the country’s second and third largest cable operators, to switch their membership from the HCTA to HCA. The move has increased the number of subscribers represented by HCA from 1.25 million to some 1.85 million, out of a total cable universe of some 2.3-2.4 million, making it by far the larger association and a merger between the two – agreed in principle two years ago – looking increasingly likely.
However, the main issue facing the industry, in the view of HCA’s president Ferenc Kéry, is the poor state of the Hungarian economy. It is slowing down the take up of digital TV services, despite them now being offered by all the leading operators and several smaller ones.
HD services are also now provided by several cable operators and are a good way of retaining customers. On the other hand, the number of (SD) channels available in the Hungarian market seems to be growing unabated, with lack of capacity on cable networks becoming a real problem.
Also of concern to the cable industry is the strong competition it faces from Digi TV and ‘T’ (the colloquial term used for Magyar Telekom), despite the two companies having a foot in both the cable and DTH camps. ‘T’, in particular, has really turned a corner since launching its satellite service late last year, with both it and the IPTV platform T-Home TV now rapidly gaining subscribers.
Another issue, little reported outside Hungary, is that of competition to secure ever-more-expensive sports rights. It recently saw the cost of a three-year deal for Hungarian football rocket from a previous HUF100 million (€371,000) to around €20 million.
A full report on the Hungarian market will appear in the next issue of New Television Insider.