One of the most important transactions in Central and Eastern Europe’s TV industry in 2018 was announced late last month, just as everyone was winding down for the Christmas break.
It saw M7 Group agree to buy Liberty Global’s DTH operations in four regional markets – Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania – for a combined fee of around €180 million. Assuming the deal receives regulatory approval, it will be closed in the first half of this year.
Selling its DTH operations in CEE is a logical next step for Liberty Global following on from the sale of its cable assets in three regional markets, plus Germany, to Vodafone. Announced early last year, that deal is also still awaiting regulatory approval.
At the same time, it raises the question of what will happen to Liberty’s last remaining interests in CEE, namely UPC in Poland and Slovakia.
For M7 Group, on the other hand, the acquisition of the UPC DTH operations will mark a major step up in its regional involvement. However, it will not exactly be one of entering two new markets, as has been announced, but one, namely Romania.
Indeed, M7 Group has already been present in Hungary, entering the market in 2014 through its AustriaSat Magyarország platform and then acquiring the DTH and MMDS service Hello HD. It exited Hungary two years later after selling Hello HD.
M7 Group’s presence in the region dates back to early 2011, when it acquired the DTH platform CS Link and, just a few months later Skylink. The two were eventually merged into Skylink, which quickly established itself as the leading DTH operation in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
By now gaining control of UPC DTH’s freeSAT operations, M7 Group will be able to significant strengthen its position in what are two highly competitive markets.
Hungary and Romania, on the other hand, will pose new and interesting challenges for the company.