Slowly but surely, Central and East Europe’s TV industry is starting to recover from what was undoubtedly its biggest crisis in two decades.
This year has already seen interesting and by and large positive developments in a number of markets. The region was never far behind Western Europe in the rollout of HD services, and so it is now also proving with 3D. Just as in the UK and Germany, viewers in Poland will shortly be able to watch programming in the format in public venues – and indeed at home, providing they have the necessary reception equipment.
The market is also starting to move again in terms of acquisitions after what was an understandably quiet 2009. This year we have already seen MTG enter the Russian DTH sector by buying a 50% stake in the operator of Raduga TV and CME acquiring Bulgaria’s bTV from News Corp. More deals are undoubtedly on the horizon as capital markets finally start to free up following the recession.
There are also signs that ad spend, certainly in some of the leading markets, will start to recover this year. Last month ZenithOptimedia predicted growth of 1.2% in Poland, while in Russia expenditure is expected to bounce back following a contraction of 29% last year.
The transition to digital broadcasting is also likely to gather momentum throughout the region. It is already well under way in several countries, with two – Slovenia and Estonia – due to complete the process later this year.
Consolidation can certainly be expected in the cable industry, with Liberty Global and Sweden’s EQT V both on the lookout for acquisitions, though much less so in the DTH sector despite the huge number of platforms (around 50) now serving the region.
Furthermore, as some players leave the TV industry (News Corp), others will become more prominent. There may also be newcomers, such as Ringier and Axel Springer, who announced only late last month that they will be merging their operations in the region.