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Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Central & East Europe

Viacom expands via OTT in Russia

By Chris Dziadul

Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) has reached a distribution agreement with the Russian online streaming platform Okko.

As part of the deal, Viacom’s kids’ content is now available to Okko’s subscribers for the first time, giving them VOD access to a raft of popular Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. content.

Commenting on the development, Elena Balmont, senior VP and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks in Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Baltic States and CIS said: “We are really excited to collaborate with Okko, which are one of the leading OTT platforms in Russia. The deal will bring our most popular Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. shows to millions of subscribers across the region, not only via their televisions but also through their mobile devices and consoles.”

Ivan Grodetsky, CEO of Okko, added: “At Okko we always strive to provide customers with a wide variety of quality content from around the world. This new deal with Viacom will bring the best of pre-school and animated content directly to our platform, allowing access to the most exciting Nickelodeon shows at any time of day.”

Telekom Slovenije head Matjaz Merkan resigns

By Chris Dziadul

Matjaz Merkan, the president of the management board of Telekom Slovenije, has resigned after less than two months and with immediate effect.

According to the company, his position will be taken over by Tomaz Seljak, the VP of the management board, until the appointment of a successor.

It adds that Matjaz Merkan has decided to resign for purely personal reasons and both he and the company “reject all others statements or speculations that have cropped up in the media”.

Broadband TV News understands these include that he refused to launch an enquiry into his predecessor Rudolf Skobe.

Under Skobe’s leadership, Telekom Slovenije was ordered by an arbitration tribunal to pay €17.6 million to Greece’s Antenna Group, which wants to exit a joint venture operating a TV channel in Slovenia.

Digi grows revenues, cable TV base

By Chris Dziadul

Digi Communications had total revenues of €299.4 million in the third quarter, up from €270 million in the same period last year.

At the same time, its adjusted EBITDA rose from €87.9 million to €127.5 million over the same period.

In its latest set of results, the company notes that revenues in its main market Romania increased as a result of price increases in all residential services that came into effect in March this year, as well as an increase it fixed internet and data and cable TV RGUs.

Meanwhile, its revenues in Hungary slightly decreased mainly as a result of ARPU decrease and the negative FX impact of the depreciation of the Hungarian forint.

In Romania, which had revenues of €190.9 million (+7.5% year-on-year) in Q3, the number of cable TV subscribers rose by 289,000 to 3,523,000 in the year to September 30.

At the same time, the number of DTH subscribers fell by 34,000 to 510,000.

Cable TV ARPU in Q3 was €5.3 (+6%) and DTH ARPU €5.1 (+6.3%). In Hungary, on the other hand, revenues in Q3 amounted to €53.1 million, down 2.7% on the same period last year.

The number of cable TV subscribers rose by 19,000 to 704,000, while the DTH subscriber total fell by 13,000 to 275,000.

Cable TV ARPU fell by 6% to €7.8, while DTH ARPU was down 3.4% to €8.6.

ER-Telecom buys Moscow asset

By Chris Dziadul

The Russian cable operator ER-Telecom (Dom.ru) has acquired the telco iHome.

Kommersant reports that the transaction is the operator’s first major one in Moscow.

Although no financial details have been disclosed, the sale price is believed to be in the region of R1.5 billion (€21.2 million).

IHome has until now been owned by its founder and CEO Vasily Maskovsky.

It works mainly in the inter-operator market and besides having its own backbone network in Moscow and 30 other Russian cities it has traffic exchange points in eight countries around the world.

Meanwhile, Perm-based ER-Telecom is the second largest provider of broadband internet services in Russia after Rostelecom.

It is also a key player in the Russian pay-TV market but until now has not had a strong presence in Moscow.

DVB-T2 splits Czech viewers

By Chris Dziadul

One in four (25%) of Czech DTT households will decide only when necessary if to continue watching terrestrial services once the switch to the DVB-T2 standard is completed.

Furthermore, reports Digizone, quoting the findings of a Nielsen Admosphere study undertaken for the Association of Television Organisations (ATO), another 18% do not know what they are going to do.

Significantly, only 2% of DTT households said that they did not want to switch to DVB-T2 but instead get satellite, cable or IPTV. Almost one in four (23%) of households have already switched to DVB-T2, while a further 9% have a TV or set-top box.

A tenth of households said they would buy a new TV set and 11% in a set-top box.

Although 45% do not know what to expect from DVB-T2, the remainder expect better picture quality (30%), a wider selection of TV channels (24%) and stronger signal (21%).

Rostelecom buys up Tele2 Russia

By Chris Dziadul

Rostelecom’s board of directors has approved a transaction to buy the remaining 55% of Tele2 Russia the company does not already own.

The acquisition is expected to be completed in three parts. The first will be of a 10% stake through an exchange of 10% of ordinary Rostelecom shares held by the Rostelecom subsidiary for R24 billion (€338.9 million), while the second will be of a 27.5% stake using cash proceeds received from an additional share issue of Rostelcom ordinary shares awarded to VTB for a value of R66 billion. The third will be of a 17.5% stake for cash at a valuation determined by an independent appraiser, equal to R42 billion.

Tele2 is the fastest growing mobile operator in Russia and the deal will complement Rostelecom’s digital services with new convergent offerings. It will also help Rostelecom in the upcoming rollout of 5G services.

Following completion Tele2 Russia will remain a separate legal entity, with its existing management in place.

Rostelecom group strategy will be renewed and unveiled in the first half of 2020.

DVB-T2 progresses in Croatia

By Chris Dziadul

Broadcasting of HD programmes using DVB-T2 HEVC has started throughout the whole of Croatia.

According to the national transmission company OiV, it is being undertaken on the M2 multiplex and simulcasting will continue until the full transition to the standard is completed on July 1, 2020.

It adds that this date was moved from May 1, 2020 by the regulator HAKOM and the first DVB-T2 transmissions began on September 6 this year.

OiV also says that DVB-T2 HEVC will allow for not only better quality pictures (HD) than DVB-T but also improved coverage by the national multiplexes M1 and M2 and local multiplex L1.

Play gains TV customers and grows profit

By Chris Dziadul

Play Communications ended the third quarter with 20,300 subscribers to its Play Now TV Box services, which made their commercial debut in April this year.

In its latest set of results, Poland’s leading mobile operator adds that as of the end of September its reported subscriber base stood at around 15.1 million, of which 65.8% were contract subscribers.

Meanwhile, its active subscriber base was around 12.7 million, of which 71.6% were contract subscribers.

Play had total revenues of PLN1,796 million (€419.7 million), up 5.2% year-on-year.

EBITDA was PLN645 million (+16.1%) and net profit PLN233.1 million (+22.8%).

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, the Play Now TV Box gives viewers access to over 70 TV channels and thousands of hours of films, serials and programmes, as well as Netflix and HBO Go.

New role for Ricardas Slapsys

By Chris Dziadul

Ricardas Slapsys has been appointed the deputy chairman of the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTK).

The decision to promote him was made by the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) on the recommendation of the Seimas Committee on Culture and within the provisions of the Law on Public Information.

Slapys was first appointed a member of LRTK in March 2017 and will stay in his new role for a period of four years.

T-Mobile improves Czech TV offer

By Chris Dziadul

T-Mobile has launched its new T-Mobile TV Go app in the Czech Republic.

It is available on Android and iOS mobile devices and also Philips smart TVs running Android TV (version 6 and above), with Samsung smart TV (2017 onwards) due to be added in the next few days.

T-Mobile TV can now be watched on up to four devices and the new app is accompanied by a new OTT set top box (Kaon 6077) with Android TV.

In addition to pre-installed apps such as HBO Go, it allows users to download apps such as YouTube and Spotify.

The box costs CZK50 (€1.96) including VAT a month to rent.

T-Mobile says that the new version of T-Mobile TV Go is now available to new TV users and existing customers will be gradually transitioned to the new app in the coming months.

UPC Direct launches TV Everywhere

By Chris Dziadul

The UPC Direct Now app has been made available in Hungary.

It is being offered free of charge to UPC Direct subscribers and gives access to up to 50 linear channels on smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Significantly, it is also the only app, among those offered by national TV providers, that is available on smart TVs – in this instance Samsung and Panasonic devices.

Additional features of the app, which runs on both Android and iOS, include seven-day replay functionality.

Commenting on the launch, Catalin Itu, UPC Direct country manager, Hungary and Romania, said: “The application was developed by M7 Group to enhance the experience, based on customer needs. Day-to-day organisation, flexible planning of work and leisure, and the importance of communal and individual free time are vital for our clients. Television has long been determined by linear programming, but advanced technology has led to a better experience. We are pleased to be able to make this innovative service available for our customers”.

UPC Direct is operated by UPC DTH, a member of Luxembourg-based M7 Group.

The latter’s operations include freeSAT and Skylink in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and FocusSat in Romania.

SPI/A1 ink Timeless Drama Channel deal

By Chris Dziadul

A1 Broadcasting subscribers in Croatia and Macedonia can now access SPI/FilmBox’s Timeless Drama Channel (TDC).

Commenting on the development, Murat Muratoglu, head of distribution at SPI International, said: “We are delighted to announce the launch of the first global Turkish drama channel TDC in Macedonia and Croatia with A1 Broadcasting. Turkish dramas are wildly popular across the globe due to the universal themes and values that they represent. We are confident that drama genre lovers in Croatia and Macedonia will thoroughly enjoy the award-winning series on this channel”.

TDC was launched in April and is now distributed by 14 operators in 12 countries to over 3 million homes. It plans to double its penetration in 2020.

Beenius inks TVC Communications deal

By Chris Dziadul

Slovenia-based Beenius has strenghtened its presence in the CALA (Caribbean and Latin American) market by signing a reseller agreement with TVC Communications (TVC).

Under its terms, TVC will sell all Beenius technologies, including Beenius Interactive TV Platform, E2E system integration, consulting services and also provide first and second level support in the CALA region. TVC will reinforce the company’s presence with local pre-sales, sales, and technical support primarily in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and the Caribbean.

Commenting on the development, Martin Zorz, VP sales-Americas, Beenius, said: “”Beenius presence in Latin America is strengthening as time goes by, and last year we witnessed the robust revenue growth that the market was experiencing.

“TVC is a local player that has extensive knowledge of the market behaviour and, with their support, we are looking forward to many more opportunities opening for us.”

Ken Olsen, SVP for TVC CALA, added: ““TVC has a long history in deploying IPTV video services throughout the Caribbean and Latin America (CALA). We look forward to supporting Beenius solutions for the growing OTT/ multi-screen market segment”.

New football channel for Ukraine

By Chris Dziadul

Media Group Ukraine (MGU) will launch its third proprietary channel dedicated to football in February 2020.

Commenting on the upcoming service, which will be named Fulbol 3, Oleksandr Denisov, the company’s director of football channels, said: “At present, the programmatic policy of Futbol 3 is being elaborated. Contracts on new content are signed with counterparties, and there will be more. We plan to introduce the concept of a complete family of channels about one month later. Certainly, as the product line expands, the content will be split into three channels. And our viewer will have even more opportunities to watch quality broadcasts.”

Futbol 3 will be distributed by cable networks, the DTH platform Xtra TV and Oll.TV OTT service.

Rostelecom grows TV business

By Chris Dziadul

The Russian incumbent Rostelecom ended the third quarter with 10.3 million TV subscribers, or 2% more than a year earlier.

Of these, 5.5 million (+7%) opted for IPTV services.

The company also had a total of 13.1 million internet customers, an 0.5% increase on the total in Q3 2018.

In its latest set of results, the company notes that its B2C pay-TV ARPU amounted to R248 (€3.53) in the third quarter of this year, up 3% on a year earlier.

Although IPTV ARPU was significantly higher at R311, it was only 0.3% more than in Q3 2018.

Rostelecom as a whole had revenues of R83,727 million (+5%) in Q3. Its OIBDA was R27,896 million (+2%) and net income R6,412 million (+12%).

In his comments on the results, Rostelecom’s president Mikhail Oseevskiy said: “We delivered robust topline and operational growth in the third quarter of 2019. Our digital segment grew by 13% and is closing in on an almost 60% contribution to group revenue. Total revenue across the Group grew by 5%, in-line with our strategic objective. Smart City projects, cloud services, data centres and cyber security contributed significantly to this strong performance, adding to our core business streams of broadband and pay-TV. The contribution from these new services is becoming more tangible and visible and provides solid evidence of the company’s steady digital transformation

United Group to buy Vivacom

By Chris Dziadul

BC Partners-owned United Group has agreed to buy the Bulgarian incumbent Vivacom for a reported €1.2 billion.

The acquisition marks the second major transaction since BC Partners took over United Group in March, with the latter having bought Tele2 Croatia in May in a deal worth €220 million.

BC Partners says it expects the Vivacom acquisition to close in the second quarter of 2020, subject to conditions including receipt of applicable antitrust approvals.

It adds that it will be financed through a combination of new debt and cash on hand at United Group.

Commenting on the deal, Victoriya Boklag, CEO of United Group, said: “Vivacom is a well-run company with strong management and I am excited at the opportunities we have to build an even stronger business. Bulgaria is an attractive market and this acquisition will enable us to diversify the Group further. United Group has a great track record in acquiring and successfully integrating businesses, with more than 100 acquisitions since our inception.”

Nikos Stathopoulos, partner at BC Partners, added: “When we invested in United Group, we identified its business model, technology and regional leadership as key drivers for organic growth, accelerated by acquiring and integrating local companies. With Vivacom, we are pleased to acquire a dynamic telecom operator in a vibrant economy and a growing market that enables us to expand our geographic reach across Europe.”

Spas Roussev, chairman of the supervisory board of Vivacom, said: “This transaction is a great success and a great opportunity for Vivacom, its clients, and more generally for Bulgaria. Thanks to great efforts of all, Vivacom has become one of the most successful European telecom companies. It now welcomes as new shareholders one of the most successful global investors with significant presence in Europe and North-America, BC Partners. Vivacom will play a big role in the future development of United Group, their leading regional telecom and media platform.”

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, the acquisition by United Group has been opposed by Empreno Ventures on the grounds that it is the latest part of a fraudulent scheme that is subject to on-going legal proceedings in the UK, Luxembourg and US.

Cyfrowy Polsat makes steady gains

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s Cyfrowy Polsat Group has posted total revenues of PLN2,892 million (€678.3 million) for the third quarter, or 5.4% more than in the corresponding period last year.

At the same time, its EBITDA was PLN1,021 million, down 2% on Q3 2018.

In its latest set of results, the company notes that while its pay-TV subscriber total was at 5,033,398 0.1% lower in the third quarter than last year, its multiroom subscriber total increased by 3.4% to 1,180,891.

Mobile telephony also performed well, with the number of customers rising by 7.5% to 7,752,113.

All told, the company had 14,587,869 contracted RGUs in Q3, up 3.8% on a year earlier.
The number of contracted customers stood at 5,644,291 (-1.2%), of who 1,947,497 (+12.7%) opted for multiplay.

APRU amounted to PLN84.8 (+1%) and churn was 6.8% (-1.1 pp).

Russian internet TV bill draws closer

By Chris Dziadul

The State Duma Committee on Information Policy has recommended on its first reading a law on choosing a single content provider of 20 publicly available TV channels for internet sites.

Kommersant reports that several organisations can be selected for such a role, including the national transmission company RTRS and online platform Vitrina TV, founded by National Media Group (NMG) two years ago.

It adds that the second reading of the law will firm up the number of organisations that can take on such a role and the criteria for their selection.

It has already been decided that national TV channels will be allowed to continue broadcasting on their own sites, registered as mass media.

Furthermore, obtaining the status of a content provider will require organisations to secure agreements with at least one third of must-carry public channels, rather than the previous two-thirds.

Digital ad spend doubles in CEE

By Chris Dziadul

Digital advertising budgets in Central and Eastern Europe increased by 104% in the in the years 2014-2018.

As a result, according to the findings of the CANnual Report revealed at weCAN’s conference in Bucharest today (November 7), online advertising reached a net €5.7 billion in the region last year, exceeded ad spend in TV.

Thanks to economic prosperity and digital development, total net ad spend reached €13.8 billion in 2018, meaning that advertisers spent €3 billion more in the region than five years ago. TV stayed strong and digital spending saw an explosive growth, while outdoor became the third most popular type of advertising space after TV and online due to the free fall of print.

Advertisers in the Visegrad countries were the quickest to readjust their ad spendings in the digital age. The Czech Republic was the first market where online spending exceeded that of TV, followed by Hungary in 2015 and Poland in 2018, while Slovakia is expected to jump on the bandwagon in the near future.

Beside them, three more countries have reached this milestone since 2014: Lithuania in 2016, and Ukraine and Russia in 2018. The latter have become a real digital superpower, contributing almost half of the region’s entire online ad spending.

However, in line with the trends of media consumption, advertisers still spend significant amounts on TV commercials – in 2018, a net total of €5.5 billion, 14% more than five years earlier. Since 2014, the big screen has remained more popular in the South, the first places of the TV-ranking being firmly taken by Romania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia.

The report sums up the results of 15 CEE advertising markets from the 2014-2018 period and includes trend forecasts for the next five years.

WeCA is the network of independent advertising agencies of Central and Eastern Europe.

Wholesale revenues boost Telekom Romania

By Chris Dziadul

Telekom Romania’s total revenues in Q3 amounted to €243.5 million, or 7.4% more than in the same period last year.

This, according to its parent company OTE, was driven by a sharp increase in wholesale revenues.

Although Telekom Romania’s TV subscriber base shrunk by 6.9% to 1,353,456 in the year to September 30, within this the number of FMC customers increased by 25.2% to 822,647.

At the same time, the number of broadband subscribers fell by 7.2% to 1,068,664.

Meanwhile, in OTE’s home market Greece revenues rose by 3.7% to €1,011.3 million.

The number of TV subscribers was up by 2.7% to 548,000, while the broadband subscriber total increased 6% to 1,969,105.

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