Online VOD services are becoming an increasingly familiar feature of the TV landscape in Central and Eastern Europe.
However, it is probably too early to talk about them being a big success in all but a handful of markets.
Take Voyo, which was launched by Central European Media Enterprises (CME) in the Czech Republic at the beginning of last year and subsequently rolled out in the five other countries in the region the company operates in. Having introduced a monthly fee of €7.38 in December for which viewers are given access to everything in its library, the Czech service has set the ambitious target – by its own admission – of 100,000 paying subscribers by the end of this year.
While this may be achievable in the Czech Republic, Voyo’s sister services are likely to have more modest goals in terms of subscriber numbers. In any case, the Czech Republic is probably a lucrative market for online VOD, with Topfun Media, which is backed by the financial group J&T, expected to launch what has been described as a “Czech Netflix” later this year.
Poland, too, is a hive of activity thanks in no small part to the success of such on demand services as ipla, which is operated by Redefine, backed by Polsat founder and owner Zygmunt Solorz; and OnetVOD (vod.onet.pl) and the recently-launched tvnplayer.pl, both of which are linked to the national commercial broadcaster TVN. Others include a service, known as Telewizja Osobista (‘Personal Television’), launched late last year and operated by the alternative telco Netia.
Meanwhile in Russia an online VOD service named Yota Play, operated by Yota and the WiMax provider Scartel, made its debut last summer. Offering content on a pay-per-view basis, it joined a growing market already served by such companies as the leading mobile (and pay-TV) operator MTS.
Alongside these developments in the region have come the appearances of such services as HBO Go, with the streaming operation having made its regional debut in Poland in partnership with the cable operator Inea in late 2010 and then subsequently introduced in several other countries last year.
It is also interesting to note that research published by Gemius last September found online VOD services to be nine times more popular in Hungary than in Denmark.
These are certainly exciting times for the delivery of on demand content over the internet in CEE, with more interesting developments likely in the near future.