MTG’s acquisition of a stake in the DTH platform Raduga should come as no surprise. When it comes to Russia, the company has always been something of a pioneer.
Indeed, in an interview with Hans-Holger Albrecht several years ago, I still distinctly remember him using the term “first mover status” and how MTG had stolen a march on its competitors by establishing a presence in Russia through CTC Media and DTV.
Given this, it should come as no surprise that MTG has taken things a stage further by moving into the Russian DTH market, which, it has to be said, is growing at a truly remarkable rate. Served only by only the long-established NTV-Plus up until 4-5 years ago, it now consists of five platforms, one of which – Tricolor TV – is the fastest growing in Europe.
Although MTG is unlikely to find the going easy, Raduga will give it a foothold in the lucrative Russian market and perhaps the possibility to expand still further in the years to come. There is certainly scope for consolidation in the DTH sector, and in due course the country might end up with only 2-3 platforms.
Only last September, NTV-Plus and Tricolor TV effectively came under the same ownership when Gazprom-Media Holding took a stake in the latter. There were strong synergies in the deal, though it seems likely the two platforms, which target very different types of subscribers, will remain distinct entities for the foreseeable future.
MTG is already a key player in the Baltic Republics, though they have been exceptionally hard hit by the global economic crisis and this has undoubtedly impacted on its business. While Ukraine has also suffered greatly in recent months, the Viasat Ukraine operation is understood to be doing well.
Russia, however, will be the real acid test for MTG. Given its track record in the country, its chances of success must be rated as very high.