Given the rapidly changing nature of the industry, what are the prospects for IPTV in Central and Eastern Europe?
This week’s otherwise excellent IP&TV World Forum in Istanbul provided many insights but ultimately failed to answer this important question.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a huge amount of information emerged at the event about the market in the host country Turkey. It has enjoyed astonishing growth in digital TV in the last five years, with the number of platforms providing services rising from one to seven. However, only one of these is an IPTV operation and it launched as recently as two weeks ago.
Within CEE, we learnt about IPTV developments in a handful of markets including the Czech Republic, Republic of Macedonia and Croatia, though unfortunately not Russia due to unforeseen circumstances.
The Czech Republic was at one time regarded as one of the most promising in the region thanks largely to the success of Telefónica’s O2 TV. However, the platform has seen its subscriber figure plateau in recent months as competition from other platforms, though especially DTT – the country is moving rapidly to ASO, with major cities such as Prague, Brno and Plzen now all-digital – begins to bite.
It will therefore be interesting to see whether the streamlined offer the platform has just introduced will trigger growth in subscriber numbers.
Meanwhile in the Republic of Macedonia, the incumbent telco Maktel has by its own admission a huge fight on its hands to overhaul cable and DTT, the latter in the shape of a service operated by the Slovenian incumbent telco. It is working hard to differentiate its offer from the competition by, for instance, being the only company to offer its subscribers HBO, but is clearly finding the going tough in what is a highly price-sensitive market.
In Croatia, Iskon is making headway in an IPTV market in which MAXtv, with which it has ownership links, is the undisputed leader. However, it also faces competition from both DTT – the country has just completed the transition to digital broadcasting – and cable.
If they are to succeed challenging conditions, IPTV providers in the region need to look no further than Germany for advice. There, Deutsche Telekom, seemingly against all odds, has made its IPTV service into a runaway success in a market dominated by cable and DTH. Indeed, it should end the year with over 1.5 million subscribers.
And its secret? Most probably identifying key differentiators between its service and those of competitors and working hard on providing them.