The pay-TV sector in Central and Eastern Europe has weathered the global economic situation "surprisingly well", according to a new report from Informa Telecoms & Media .
The report adds that with so many new services having launched in the region in recent years, the financial downturn could well have prompted numerous closures of nascent services still trying to gain a secure foothold in highly competitive markets - but that hasn't happened to any great extent in the CEE region, and the pay-TV sector is "well-positioned to flourish" as a result.
Informa Telecoms & Media predicts that pay-TV revenues in the region will increase by 50% between 2009 and 2015, with Russia and Poland to strengthen their respective positions as the region's revenue giants, together accounting for 43% of pay-TV revenues in 2009, and expected to account for 51% of pay-TV revenues in 2015.
Average revenue per user (ARPU) is also expected to continue to rise in the forecast period, as the number of services on offer - and the subsequent tiering of channels and the introduction of PPV/VOD packages - rises. However, ARPU rates of increase are expected to start to slow towards the end of the forecast period and in some sectors go into decline, as the impact of double- and triple-play bundles, plus new competition from over-the-top (OTT) services, pushes down prices.
Satellite TV is described as having taken off "pretty spectacularly" in the region, and is expected to overtake cable as the leading pay-TV platform in 2012. Satellite TV is believed to benefit from its perception as a premium TV service - giving it an advantage over an "often fragmented" cable sector, which is struggling to shake off its historic connotation as a low-cost utility service, according to the report.
Despite a high level of activity in the region being driven by a desire to gain "first-mover" advantage and gain a decisive early foothold in a country, the majority of developed markets have shown that the long-term economic reality is that each market will be left with a single dominant player for each platform, according to Informa Telecoms & Media. Some operators (including TVP in Poland and Poverkhnost Plus in the Ukraine) have already experienced difficulties, and several operator closures and mergers are expected over the next few years.
Digital TV is predicted to grow fairly rapidly in Central and Eastern Europe over the next five years, increasing nearly three-fold from 44mn at the end of 2009 to 125mn by the end of 2015. Digital penetration is forecast to reach 73% of the region's TV households by 2015, up from 28% in 2009. Of the 14 countries covered by the report, 13 are expected to have digital TV penetration in excess of 65% by 2015, including six countries at 90% or more - only the Ukraine is expected to be below 65% penetration.
Digital cable is described as starting to make some progress in some territories - notably Russia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland - with operators being increasingly forced to find compelling reasons to encourage their subscribers to upgrade, or lose them to rival services - leading to the increasing availability of value-added services such as VOD and HDTV.
DTH, IPTV and DTT are predicted to be most popular over the next five years in countries that have low cable penetration, although DTT roll-out is believed to have been slow or delayed in several countries in the CEE region, and governments' stated analogue switch-off dates are therefore believed to often appear optimistic. However, DTT is expected to be the primary TV service in 27% of households by 2015.
The situation for IPTV is described as varying greatly from country to country - in markets such as Slovenia and Croatia the platform is already making "very good progress" and is starting to emerge as a strong alternative platform; the circumstances for IPTV are most positive where broadband capacity has ben upgraded to provide sufficiently-robust networks. Where this is coupled with attractive content rights, IPTV is believed to have a "realistic chance" of attracting subscribers away from cable and satellite.
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