If ever there was a TV market in the CEE region to keep a close eye on it surely must be Serbia.
That much became quickly apparent at the latest Business Breakfast organised by Broadband TV News, in association with Telenor Satellite Broadcasting, in Belgrade earlier this week.
Serbia Broadband (SBB), which is backed by Mid Europa Partners (MEP), remains the country’s leading provider of cable and DTH services. However, it has also developed into a key regional player through its DTH platform Total TV.
Although the latter is no longer operated by SBB in Bulgaria, having undergone a change of ownership earlier this year, it is now firmly established as a pan ‘former Yugoslavia’ operation. In Croatia, despite also undergoing an ownership change, it continues to run as a partnership between SBB and BNet, the country’s main cable operator.
Digi Sat, a subsidiary of Romania’s RCS&RDS, meanwhile acknowledges Serbia to be quite distinct to the other markets in the region it has a presence in. Its decision to develop a new hybrid set-top box will, it believes, provide the country with a real solution to assist in its transition to digital broadcasting.
That could be fraught with difficulties, given the April 2012 ASO date Serbia has set itself and the fact that a number of important decisions on the digitisation process have yet to be taken. There is a possibility, no matter how remote, that the switch off could be put back, as it has in countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.
When the last Business Breakfast was held in Belgrade just over two years ago, IPTV had only just been introduced into the market. Today, it transpires that the platform operated by the incumbent telco Telekom Srbija already has over 95,000 subscribers, making it one of the most successful in the entire region. If all goes according to plan, the take-up figure could rise to half a million by 2015.
Telekom Srbija’s future role will in good part be determined by its upcoming privatisation. There are several interested parties, including Deutsche Telekom, which already holds a stake in the company through OTE, and Russia’s Vimpelcom.
Serbia’s TV industry, like all others in the region, undoubtedly has its problems. But it is certainly on the right track and looks set to become an increasingly prominent one, not only in the Balkans but CEE as a whole, in the months and years that lie ahead.