On the evidence of our latest business briefing, which took place in Budapest on May 27, these are fascinating times for Hungary’s pay-TV industry.
Never really in the spotlight to the same extent as those in other leading CEE markets, it now has a story to tell and the future looks distinctly promising.
Deutsche Telekom, through its local subsidiary Magyar Telekom, is undoubtedly one of the main pacesetters in the industry. Thomas Staneker, the head of Deutsche Telekom’s European TV Technology Centre, described how Hungary and indeed the region as a whole are so important to the German telco’s strategy. Outside its home market, it now has over 5 million pay-TV subscribers, of who 3 million are in CEE/SEE.
What is more, Budapest is the headquarters of its TV Service Centre, which essentially consolidates the engineering activities in seven countries. Its work is being undertaken in steps, with the first one having been the successful reduction of Capex, and future steps include cloud TV, with which trials have taken place in Greece and Croatia.
Staneker emphasised that it was important not to lose sight of the basics, which is that “premium content remains the killer”.
The national transmission company Antenna Hungária is also another pacesetter and currently making the news, with its sale to the Hungarian state by France’s TDF – itself a surprising move – about to close.
András Tóth, Antenna Hungária’s head of communication, provided fascinating insights into the company’s strategy and future plans. Key to these is its DTT operation, which includes a highly successful pay platform, which will be expanded in terms of content thanks to the addition of two multiplexes.
Antenna Hungária is also playing an important role in the introduction of HbbTV services into Hungary, most recently through its work with the public broadcaster MTVA.
Tóth made the important point, also mentioned by other speakers, that Hungary’s pay-TV market is now so saturated it is extremely difficult for operators to increase their market share. One way of doing so is by taking subscribers away from their competitors.
Meanwhile, Ferenc Kéry, the president of the Hungarian Cable Communications Association (HCA), provided facts and figures on the country’s pay-TV market. He also discussed some of the main challenges facing the industry, and in particular the cable sector. These include digitisation, extra taxes, OTT, LTE implementation and the demand by national commercial channels for distribution fees for cable operators.
Jim Helfgott, VP of sales and marketing, UPC DTH, spoke from the perspective of a satellite platform that has now been present in Hungary for 14 years. Operating in what is a highly competitive market, its strategy is now one of putting the customer at the heart of its business.
Berk Uziyel, executive director, Filmbox International, provided a fascinating perspective from an international content company. Active throughout the region, it sees Hungary as a stable market but also one with huge potential for growth.
Finally, András Gelei, the COO of AustriaSat Hungary, gave insights into what is the newest player in Hungary’s pay-TV market: a DTH platform being built on the foundations of an acquired asset, namely Hello HD.
AustriaSat Hungary is backed by Luxembourg’s M7, which already has a presence in several markets, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
It has adopted a ‘minimalist’ approach in terms of its offer and could yet become an important player, especially if M7 buys another Hungarian operation.