Liberty Global’s latest results paint a somewhat mixed picture of its performance in Central and Eastern Europe. However, the overall impression they give is one of a company that is very much on the up.
Take its digital cable services, for instance. They secured an additional 76,000 subscribers in five markets in the second quarter, bringing the total to 1,227,400. As a result, they are now received in over one in three (36.6%) of its cable homes in the region.
Growth in digital cable take-up was particularly strong in Poland, where UPC Polska gained an additional 31,000 subscribers in the second quarter. This put the country in third place in a ‘growth table’ behind Germany and The Netherlands, and fourth if Belgium (where Telenet reports separately) is also included.
Although digital cable growth was also noticeably pronounced in Hungary (+21,800 new subscribers in the quarter), there were worrying developments in Romania, where 8,400 new digital cable additions were accompanied by a 54,000 reduction in analogue cable subscribers. Not only that, but Romania also noted significant reductions in two-way homes passed (-116,700), customer relationships (-40,700) and total RGUs (-54,400) in the quarter.
Worst still, Romania was the only market in both the region and Western Europe to post reduced figures for both its broadband internet and telephony services. Clearly what we read about Romania being a highly competitive market is more than just hype: the challenge UPC faces from RCS/RDS and increasingly Romtelecom is real and there for all to see, and something will eventually have to give.
Indeed, the only cheerful note for UPC in Romania was its DTH platform Focus Sat, which unlike its sister service UPC Direct gained subscribers – a modest 4,800 – in the second quarter. Although the latter has just over 300,000 customers in its three markets, it lost a total of 8,500 in two (Hungary and the Czech Republic).
On the plus side, though, this could be the last set of results in which UPC’s DTH operations are underperforming. With the switch to one degree West, their offers have already been improved considerably and this should impact positively on subscriber numbers from Q3/4 this year onwards.