2010 seems to be ending with a flurry of activity in Central and Eastern Europe, with SES Astra taking centre stage in the last few days.
It certainly hasn’t been the best of years in the region for the satellite operator, Liberty Global’s UPC Direct, one of its main clients, having migrated to the one degree West orbital slot. However, this has to a large degree been offset by the success of the Czech/Slovak DTH platforms Skylink and CS Link, and Astra still counts such players as TVP (Poland), Nova TV (Croatia) and AKTA (Romania) among its customers.
As of this week, Astra also has a hugely important agreement in place with Ukrkosmos, thereby giving it access to all cable head-ends and terrestrial networks in Ukraine. Significantly, it has also been locally reported that the deal will make it into a key player in the country’s DTH market from next month, when Ukrkosmos and Poverkhnost join forces to launch what will be its fourth platform.
DTH is still relatively new in Ukraine, with its three existing platforms – Poverkhnost itself was forced off the air a few months ago due to financial difficulties – having only been operational for a maximum of four years (in the case of NTV-Plus). It also has big growth potential, despite the country already being served by a large cable industry in which Volia is the leading player.
Astra has also greatly strengthened its involvement in the Balkan region this week by signing an agreement with CME. It effectively makes the latter the main client on the new 31.5 degrees East orbital slot in both Romania and Bulgaria.
CME has been present in Romania since the mid-1990s, while its involvement in Bulgaria, which includes ownership of the country’s leading broadcaster bTV, is much more recent. Astra, on the other hand, has until now had greater involvement in Romania than Bulgaria.
There is no doubt this week’s Ukrkosmos/CME deals go a long way towards reinforcing Astra’s position as one of the leading players in the Central and East European TV marketplace.