As the coronavirus pandemic begins to ease, what does the future hold for the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe?
Will we see a gradual return to “business as usual” or can we expect a fundamental shift to take place in the months and indeed years to come?
The first thing that has to be said is that since mid-March there have been major changes in the consumption of content throughout the region. Average TV viewing time has shot up and on demand services have grown hugely in popularity. At the same time, there has been significant innovation on the part of broadcasters in terms of their programme scheduling, while pay-TV operators have in some instances made their offers available free of charge, albeit for a limited period, in order to attract potential new customers.
It is still too early to say what effect the pandemic has had on TV ad spend in the region as lockdowns were only introduced towards the end of the first quarter. A clearer picture will only emerge in the summer.
There has certainly been a slowdown in M&A activity, with the only major deals announced in the last three months being Play’s acquisition of Virgin Media Polska and – a few days ago – Bite’s agreement to buy the Telecentras internet, data transmission and IPTV business in Lithuania. We may nevertheless soon hear more about the sale of Telekom Romania and PPF Group’s acquisition of Central European Media Enterprises (CME), to name but two.
On the other hand, there have been numerous content deals announced in the CEE region since in March and we can indeed expect many more in the months to come. On the technological front, the transition to DVB-T2, though delayed, will be completed in the Czech Republic in October and in Croatia most probably by the end of this year.
Yet while there will undoubtedly be a feeling of “normality” again, there will also be changes, some of which may not be immediately apparent. It will certainly not be a return to exactly the way things were before March this year.