Landlocked and sharing borders with five larger countries, Slovakia and its TV industry rarely make the headlines. It is nevertheless an important market and a microcosm of what is going on in the CEE region as a whole.
Take its DTH sector, which like those in most other territories appears saturated, being served by no fewer than five platforms. UPC Direct, the longest established, went through several difficult years but now seems relatively stable, certainly in terms of subscriber numbers, while Romanian-owned Digi remains a strong player. The pre-pay Skylink and to a lesser degree CS Link are nevertheless the star performers and the recently launched Magio Sat, operated by Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Com, is apparently performing much better than many were expecting.
Although much needed consolidation has just got under way in the Romanian DTH market, it is difficult at this stage to see how it may do so in Slovakia’s, or indeed those of most others in the region. A tie-up between Skylink and CS Link, both of which use Astra, is certainly possible, but Liberty Global, RCS&RDS and T-Com look unlikely buyers or sellers.
Slovakia’s cable industry meanwhile remains dominated by UPC, with Satro also a key player, while IPTV is much more developed than in most other markets in CEE, with T-Com (Magio TV), Orange Slovensko, Swan and Slovanet the main service providers.
The country’s transition to digital broadcasting is now also well on the way, with the DTT sector served by three multiplexes and 94% of Slovak territory already covered by digital terrestrial signals as of the beginning of this year. Practically all transmitters in Slovakia will be digital by the middle of this year, with ASO set to take place in 2012.
On the down side, the financially-troubled public TV and radio broadcasters merged into a single body (RTVS) at the beginning of this year and embarked on cost-cutting measures. One of the first casualties will be the closure of the third TV channel, known colloquially as ‘Troika’, in June.
Trojka is a sports-based service and has aired some of its programming in HD. Its disappearance will save RTVS around €1 million, or roughly 5% of the total planned at the station for this year.
Slovakia’s commercial TV market meanwhile remains dominated by CME-owned TV Markiza, with TV Joj and TA3 also important players. TV Markiza launched a second channel (TV Doma) just over a year ago and also distributes Nova Sport and MTV, while TV Joj has a second channel, named TV Joj Plus.