The switch to the DVB-T2 transmission standard got under way in earnest this week in the Czech Republic.
Although this would not usually make headlines elsewhere in the CEE region, it has particular significance in a country where terrestrial TV viewing is so high.
The public broadcaster CT set the process in motion on November 28 by starting transmitting solely in the standard to Prague and Central Bohemia. Commercial broadcasters such as Nova and Prima will follow shortly as the switch off gathers pace across the country, finally finishing in June 2020.
CT says it has given the public ample time to prepare for the change, having operated a transitional DVB-T2 multiplex since March last year. It has also said that its total expenditure on DVB-T2 between 2018-2021 is likely to amount to CZK1.3 billion (€50.85 million).
The switch to DVB-T2 has been accompanied by a huge publicity campaign and this has arguably been quite effective. Indeed, the national transmission company CRa said that as of this September most Czech households (87%) knew about the transition and 30% already watched DVB-T2 services.
However, the campaign, funded by the state, has been criticised by cable, satellite and IPTV providers for not making viewers aware of the alternatives that are available to them. They have, in effect, been told that they have no choice but to buy a new TV or set-top box to receive DVB-T2 services.
At the same time, the DTH operator Skylink has told its customers that they do not need to do anything. The transition to DVB-T2 does not affect them and they will still have a richer programme offer than that provided by (free) terrestrial TV.
Given the still huge popularity of terrestrial services, DVB-T2 will undoubtedly have an impact on the Czech TV industry. If anything, it will make it more competitive and perhaps also more difficult for pay-TV operators to grow in a market where penetration remains low by European standards.