Vodafone looks well placed to make a strong impact in the three CEE countries soon to be exited by Liberty Global.
In Romania, the company took its first tentative steps in the TV market in 2016 with the launch of an app named 4GTV+ that gave access to TV content via smartphones. It also began to offer Netflix and HBO to its customers.
More recently, late last year its local CEO Murielle Lorilloux indicated for the first time that Vodafone had plans to launch its own TV service in the country. It was also reported that Vodafone was in talks with Telekom Romania to gain access to the latter’s fixed-line network, something the telco already offered to Orange and the leading regional cable operator Akta.
Fast-forward to today and we find ourselves in an altogether different situation. Although the Liberty Global deal will take until next year to finalise, and could still meet with some regulatory hurdles along the way, Vodafone is now unlikely to strike any deal with Telekom Romania.
Orange’s position in the market may soon also dramatically change should it continue its pursuit of, and buy, Akta from Pinebridge, its current majority owner.
Interestingly, Ovidiu Ghiman, a senior executive at Telekom Romania, was earlier this week quoted in the local press as saying that the incumbent would welcome both Vodafone’s and Orange’s entry into the fixed-line market. In his view, both will find it a more challenging experience than the mobile sector, especially in the provision of integrated services.
Meanwhile in Hungary, the deal with Liberty Global will finally give Vodafone access to the B2C fixed-line sector. Aside from its presence in the mobile market, where it has share of 25%, the company will also find itself with significant stakes in both the fixed broadband and pay-TV sectors.
However, just as in Romania, it will also face strong competition, in this instance from Magyar Telekom and RCS&RDS-owned Digi, which has just acquired Invitel, the country’s leading alternative carrier.
In the Czech Republic, in was reported earlier this year that Vodafone was planning to enter the IPTV market and had indeed announced a tender for a supplier.
While these reports were not confirmed, the acquisition of UPC Czech will make Vodafone the largest cable operator and also one of the leading providers of pay-TV services in the country.