Chris Dziadul Reports: Telcos in CEE

What does the future hold in store for telcos and their TV operations across Central and Eastern Europe?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself after having watched a keynote debate in the latest Media Meet & Greet event, organised by Broadcast Projects in association with my company Broadband TV News. For me the main takeaways, argued quite convincingly by the panellists, were that telcos have for the most part made a mistake in entering the TV business and now have to work together in the face of competition from Big Tech companies such as Netflix and Amazon.

Let’s look at some telcos in CEE. Orange currently has a presence in four regional markets – Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova – and arguably a different objective in each when it comes its TV operations. In Poland, despite having just over a million subscribers to its IPTV and DTH services, the focus is clearly on the rollout of FTTH. This was clearly demonstrated this April when it entered into a 50/50 joint venture with the Dutch pension management company APG to create a company that will operate a fibre network reaching around 2.4 million homes by 2025.

Meanwhile, in Slovakia Orange announced the closure of its DTH service earlier this year, thereby retaining only its IPTV operation. It has since also decided to close its sports channels Orange Sport and Orange Sport 2-4 at the end of this month.

Contrast this to Romania, where Orange is in the process of acquiring Telekom Romania’s fixed-line business. Once completed, the transaction will give it a much stronger presence in the country’s TV market than it has to date.

Deutsche Telekom is also a key player in CEE’s TV industry, chiefly through its subsidiaries in Hungary and Croatia, as is A1 Telekom Austria Group. While this is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, they, too, are increasingly focusing on other areas, including, of course, 5G. It is interesting to note that in its latest set of results A1 did not publish its pay-TV stats despite saying there was a strong demand for its TV services in CEE.

The trends affecting telcos and their TV operations elsewhere are also clearly being seen in CEE and this will undoubtedly continue in the future.

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