Russia’s TV industry is by far the largest and most lucrative in Central and Eastern Europe. Serving almost 52 million homes, it encompasses Europe’s second cable market in terms of subscribers after Germany, the region’s biggest IPTV sector and at least six DTH platforms. It also includes a number of national and regional broadcasters, a multitude of thematic channels, mobile TV operations and embryonic DTT services.
Although the industry was hit by the global economic recession, TV ad spend recovered strongly in 2010 – the total for the first nine months of the year was 11% up on the corresponding period in 2009 – and looks set to continue growing in 2011. What is more, the take-up of pay-TV services, driven by the success of the DTH platform Tricolor TV, actually grew even during the recession.
Russia’s cable market, like most others in Central and Eastern Europe, currently finds itself in a period of consolidation. 2010 saw MTS, which was already the number two operator through its majority stake in Comstar-UTS, buy fifth-placed Multiregion for a total fee of almost $210 million (€158.7 million). At the same time, ER-Telecom, the fourth largest operator, secured a new strategic investor in the shape of Baring Vostok Capital Partners (BVCP) and Akado, the number three operator, became the take-over target for a number of parties head by the national telco Svyazinvest.
More deals can almost certainly be expected in 2011, with the market leader National Cable Network (NCN) coming into the picture.
The Russian DTH sector is also displaying the same characteristics as others in the region, with the number of platforms growing rather than contracting. Despite the takeover of Tricolor TV by Gazprom Media, the owner of NTV-Plus, the two platforms continue to operate separately as they target very different audiences. Orion Express has meanwhile launched a new operation named Continent TV, and several other parties, including Svyazinvest, are also understood to be interested in entering the market.
Furthermore, NTV-Plus, which holds the distinction of being the longest-established DTH platform in the region, having made its debut as far back as 1996, remains at the forefront of new developments in the TV industry. In October 2010, for instance, it launched the country’s first 3D channel in conjunction with Panasonic.
IPTV, on the other hand, finds itself in an extremely interesting position in Russia. Although still accounting for only a small percentage of pay-TV subscribers (between 2-4% in 2009), the total number now receiving IPTV services exceeds one million.
DTT, however, is still in its early stages, with the country having set itself a still relatively distant 2015 analogue switch off date. A roadmap is nevertheless now firmly in place and the first multiplex is being rolled out on a region-by-region basis.
Unlike most countries in the region, Russia has made significant progress in the introduction of mobile TV service. These already include a highly successful one (Video Portal) employing 3G and EDGE technology, and may shortly be joined by up to two DVB-H operations in the capital, Moscow.
Digital Broadcasting in Russia, which is part of the Broadband TV News briefing series, looks at these developments and much more in what is one of Central and Eastern Europe’s most exciting TV marketplaces. As such, it should provide an invaluable reference tool for anyone interested in the Russian TV industry and how it is likely to develop in the future.