Few can deny that this has been the most unusual year ever in Central and Eastern Europe’s TV industry.
It began with little indication of what lay in store, with United Group continuing its expansion across the south of the region by securing approval to buy Tele2’s operation in Croatia and Vectra becoming Poland’s largest cable operator by acquiring Multimedia. At the same time, the upcoming sale of CME to PPF Group was being questioned in a number of quarters and a major dispute erupted in Serbia between Telekom Srbija and United Group. Other important developments in the first quarter included a controversial 5G licence award in Hungary and the launch of Vodafone TV in the Czech Republic.
However, as March drew to a close it was becoming increasingly clear that everything was about to change. As the whole region entered lockdown due to the global pandemic, major decisions had to be made by the industry. The transition to the DVB-T2 terrestrial TV standard, for instance, was put back in both the Czech Republic and Croatia until later in the year. At the same time, as TV viewing rocketed across the region, operators opened up their services in order to attract new subscribers. Although the TV ad market took a hit, on demand services began to flourish.
The second quarter saw little in the way of major developments across the region, aside from Canal+ launching a VOD platform and Play buying Virgin Media in Poland. However, the tempo began to pick up in the autumn on the M&A front as PPF Group completed the acquisition of CME, Orange agreed to buy Telekom Romania’s fixed-line business and France’s Iliad announced it was to buy Poland’s Play. Pay-DTT was launched in the Czech Republic by Canal+-backed Skylink and Discovery Ultra made its global debut in Russia.
As 2020 draws to a close we can look back on a difficult year in which CEE’s TV industry, for reasons that were completely beyond its control, had to dig deep and show its resilience. More challenges undoubtedly lie ahead in 2021.
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