2019 is likely to be a somewhat different year for the electronic communications industry in Central and Eastern Europe than this one has been.
M&As, for instance, though still taking place, will probably not feature as much.
Having said that, all eyes will be on the outcome of the proposed sale of Liberty Global’s assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania to Vodafone. This is currently being investigated by the EC and it has already raised competition concerns in the case of the Czech Republic. However, despite these the deal is still likely to be given the go-ahead, marking a major ‘power shift’ in the region’s cable industry.
In the face of a tougher economic climate, competition will intensify and the largest players will be the best placed to prosper. Take Poland, where we now have two such players – Cyfrowy Polsat and Discovery – going head-to-head, with a handful of others, including Orange and TVP, also making waves. This is unlikely to change in 2019, though a major cable deal, expected this year, could still happen.
In the Balkans, players such as A1, United Group and (as of now) Telekom Srbija will continue to set the pace in 2019, with the region as a whole becoming increasingly interesting. Markets such as Romania, boasting pay-TV penetration of close to 100%, are already intensive battlegrounds between the leading players and this will certainly not change in 2019.
Innovation throughout the region will be key, with a growing number of providers focusing on such areas fibre rollout (for Giga services), 4K and the introduction of 5G services. However, this will require significant investment, which again is why the largest players will be the best placed.
While the pace of change will certainly not abate in 2019, there is likely to be a different focus during the year.
Broadband TV News will continue to closely follow and report on developments in the region.