While the ownership structure of Russia’s TV industry is difficult to fathom out, the trends currently taking place in it are much less so.
One of the most interesting is arguably the emergence of the national telecom operator Rostelecom, which is majority (51%) owned by the state-controlled holding company Svyazinvest, as an important player in the pay-TV market. Svyazinvest is currently in the process of being reorganised, and by the time the process is finished in May all its assets will have been consolidated under the Rostelecom umbrella, thereby creating an integrated telecom group.
Rostelecom’s interests have since earlier this year included a 21.8% stake in National Telecommunications, the operator of the leading cable company NKS. It may soon also have a controlling stake in the DTH platform Orion Express and its sister service Continent TV.
However, while Rostelecom’s involvement in NKS is highly significant – two sister telcos hold a further 50%, and the operator has around 5 million active subscribers in key population centres such as Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk – acquiring Orion Express/Continent TV may prove to be something of a side show.
Indeed, data just released by J’son & Partners Consulting shows that while Tricolor TV, NTV-Plus and Orion Express currently account for over 95% of DTH subscribers in Russia, Orion Express itself only had around 300,000 at the end of last year. The still smaller Raduga TV, which is backed by MTG, and Platforma HD, meanwhile claimed 150,000 and 50,000 respectively.
With new DTH platforms continuing to appear in the Russian market on a regular basis, there seems little scope for further growth for existing services, especially after next year, when the total number of subscribers is projected to reach 8 million.
Increased competition to DTH will come from not only cable and IPTV but also a DTT sector that is slowly starting to take shape with the rollout of the country’s first multiplex.
However, from an industry-wide perspective, Rostelecom’s aim of securing a 15-20% share of the Russian pay-TV market by 2015 still looks achievable.