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Today β€” April 20th 2018Broadband TV News: Central & East Europe

Anton Fedotov joins Russia’s STS Media

By Chris Dziadul

Russia’s STS Media has announced the appointment of Anton Fedotov as the general producer of its flagship TV channel STS.

He will report to the general director of STS, whose duties are performed by Vyacheslav Muugov, the general director of STS Media.

STS Media, which at one stage was majority owned by Modern Times Group (MTG), is one of the leading broadcasters in Russia, where it operates the TV channels STS, Domashny, Che and STS Love.

In addition, it operates Channel 31 in Kazakhstan and the international versions of STS, Domashny and Peretz, and has a number of digital entertainment assets.

Earlier this week, it was reported in the local media that Darya Legoni-Fialko had resigned from the position of director of STS.

Inea secures new funding

By Chris Dziadul

The Polish cable operator Inea has obtained credit totalling PLN930 million (€223.2 million).

According to Wirtualne Media, it will be used to pay off existing debts and invest in the company’s fibre-optic infrastructure.

It adds that the funding is being provided by eight banks, with an agreement having been signed on March 29 and the credit obtained by April 17.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, Inea, which is the largest cable operator in Wielkopolska (Western Poland) was recently acquired by Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 5 (ME1F5).

The deal was approved by Poland’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) in January this year.

Yesterday β€” April 19th 2018Broadband TV News: Central & East Europe

Kennet Radne to head Telia in Latvia

By Chris Dziadul

Telia has appointed Kennet Radne as its country manager in Latvia, with responsibilities for Telia Latvia, LMT and Lattelecom and collaboration with the Latvian government.

According to Telia, representation in the LMT supervisory council has been adjusted in view of this appointment.

It adds that following dissolution of Telia Company Corporate Holdings, responsibilities for operations in Latvia have been handed over to Ingrid Stenmark, head of CEO office, strategy and combined assurance, to whom Radne will report.

Stenmark said: After the decision of the Latvian government in November 2017 to keep the structure of LMT and Lattelecom as is, we are looking at how to best implement Telia Company’s strategy in the Latvian context. Our immediate focus is to work with the other shareholder on improving the corporate governance of the two companies in a way that fits the vision and strategy of both shareholders and contributes to enhancing the digitalisation potential of Latvia”.

Radne added: “We have three excellent companies in Latvia but I see a good potential for improvement through better cooperation between these organisations as we work to establish a more active way to engage with their management teams. I am looking forward to interact with all stakeholders to improve companies’ service offerings to the market and to drive the digitalisation and innovation agenda in Latvia. There is a big potential to develop new services in the areas of Internet of Things, data analytics and new media”.

Until January, Radne was acting chief operating officer in Azercell, a Telia subsidiary which was divested in March 2018. He has held a variety of commercial positions during his 17 years at Telia, which have also included representation on the boards of Telia entities in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

In addition to his role as country manager, Radne has become the new chair of the LMT Supervisory Council.

Telia is the biggest shareholder in LMT, with an around 60% direct and indirect stake in the company. It has a 49% direct stake in Lattelecom. Telia Latvia is a fully owned Telia subsidiary.

Separately, Lattelecom turnover in Q1 amounted to €47.8 million, a 7% increase on the same period last year. Its profit was €7 million, which was unchanged on a year earlier. Revenues from TV services increased slightly, with a growing number of Lattelecom Interactive TV users and the growing popularity of the Shortcut app, which offers customers versatile content and interactivity.

Hungary’s Hir TV to shed staff

By Chris Dziadul

The Hungarian news channel Hir TV has announced layoffs in a move that reflects wider changes in the country’s media landscape.

BBJ reports that the channel is owned the entrepreneur Lajos Simicska, who was until three years ago considered close to the Prime Minister Viktor Orban and ruling Fidesz party. However, the relationship has since deteriorated, with the channel becoming increasingly critical of the government.

It adds that the changes in the Hungarian media got under way following the re-election of Fidesz earlier this month and have already seen the closure of the daily Magyar Nemzet and radio station Lanchid.

Hir TV, which was officially launched at the beginning of 2003, is expected to shed 30-40 staff, though it will continue to show popular programmes.

Digi speeds up in Hungary

By Chris Dziadul

Digi plans to make 1Gbps fibre internet available to all the homes it covers in Hungary within the next two years.

Quoting index.hu, BBJ reports that the company currently offers 1Gbps to only 110,000 of the 1.1 million homes reached by its infrastructure, with most opting for either slower speeds of 100 Mbps or 500Mbps.

However, some choose to not even subscribe to broadband from Digi, which is also one of the leading providers of pay-TV services in Hungary.

Once Digi has upgraded its network, internet speeds of 1Gbps will be offered in 700,000 homes for the price of today’s cheapest 100Mbps package.

Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Central & East Europe

HbbTV interactive advertising debuts in Hungary

By Chris Dziadul

HbbTV interactive advertising has been launched in Hungary on the MinDigTV platform.

Viewers with an HbbTV-supported device have been able to spot a new Red Button notification when watching the show Raid the cage on TV2. By pressing it, they could play a game with their remote control, and completing it successfully allowed them to join the prize pool, sponsored by Momax.

The HbbTV advertising is the result of a partnership between Antenna Hungaria, TV2 Media Group and Castoola as a technical solution (HbbTV platform) provider.

United Group commits to Serbia

By Chris Dziadul

United Group, which is majority owned by the global investment firm KKR, has announced an additional capital investment of €293 million in Serbia over the next five years.

United Group is a leading provider of multi-play services in South East Europe and has a strong presence in Serbia, where it has around 2.9 million customers. They include ones living in rural areas that receive its DTH service.

Commenting on the additional funding, Johannes Huth, member and head of KKR EMEA, said: “Since KKR’s acquisition of United Group in 2014, we have already invested €264 million in Serbia. KKR’s commitment of an additional €293 million over the next five years is a vote of confidence in Serbia’s potential and the progress it is achieving towards economic reform and EU legal standards. We thank (Serbia’s) President Vucic for his continued leadership in ensuring that international investors are welcomed in Serbia.”

Dragica Pilipovi? Chaffey, VP of corporate affairs at United Group, added: “This increased investment will enhance United Group’s delivery of high quality digital services in Serbia. Modern, high-speed telecommunications is essential to economic growth in the country, and we are proud to continue to invest in critical infrastructure for Serbians.”

Meanwhile, speaking about the investment and quoted by Novosti, President Vucic said: “We welcome your investment. I am satisfied with the number of people you employ and this is a great contribution to our economy. We will always have our support, despite the clear disagreement with the way you represent Serbia on its channels”.

Novosti adds that Johannes Huth thanked President Vucic for the support Serbia gives to the company and foreign investment in the country. He stressed that the reforms that Serbia has implemented are not always light and popular and that they needed great courage.

“Your courage to implement these reforms should be a good example for others”.

Poland agrees key pubcasting changes

By Chris Dziadul

The Polish government has adopted amendments to the laws on radio and TV and subscription fees.

According to press.pl, the changes align the legislation with the European Commission’s position of 2011, which requires a comprehensive specification of the public service mission and the limiting of state aid to public service media.

It adds that the amendments, which were prepared by the Ministry of Culture, introduce a so-called ‘oligation card’ that specifies the mission of public service broadcasters for a period of five years. At present, 19 public radio and TV broadcasters have to submit quarterly reports on the implementation of the public service mission to the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT).

Once the changes are in place, they will be will be required to establish a charter with the KRRiT defining which projects they will implement as part their public service mission. They will also have to submit a plan as to how these projects will be financed, both from public funds and commercial activities.

Significantly, in producing a comprehensive specification of the public service mission, broadcasters’ activities on the internet and digital technologies will have to be taken into account.

The amendments also envisages a procedure for so-called prior assessment of anticipated significant media services that can be financed from public funds.

Furthermore, binding recommentations for the implementation of the public service mission will be introduced.

Failure to comply with them will result in the imposition of financial penalties.

EBU voices Ukraine concerns

By Chris Dziadul

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has said it is highly concerned by a proposed amendment to the Ukrainian Law on Public Television and Radio which threatens the editorial independence of public service media.

In a statement, it adds that Article 18 of the draft law (Number 6681) on Amendments of the Law obliges public service broadcaster UA:PBC “to cover the activity of executive authorities, other state authorities, local self government bodies, or their officials as defined by other laws”.

The EBU believes that if the amendment is adopted, UA:PBC will be obliged to provide free air time quotas for every member of Parliament (20 minutes per month on state-owned or funded channels) alongside other possible requirements which can be defined by later laws. The current Law on Public Broadcasting excludes UA:PBC from such obligations, leaving it up to the discretion of the broadcaster and its editorial judgement to decide on which activities to cover.

According to the EBU, the proposal contradicts international standards on the independence of public service media (PSM) as set out by the Council of Europe (CoE) and the EBU.

Indeed, the CoE’s Recommendation (No. R (96) 10) on the guarantee of the independence of public service broadcasting states that “the legal framework governing public service broadcasting organisations should clearly stipulate their editorial independence and institutional autonomy, especially in areas such as…the editing and presentation of news and current affairs programmes.”

It also says that: “the cases in which public service broadcasting organisations may be compelled to broadcast official messages, declarations or communications, or to report on the acts or decisions of public authorities, or to grant airtime to such authorities, should be confined to exceptional circumstances expressly laid down in laws or regulations.”

The EBU concludes by urging the Ukrainian Parliament to reject the adoption of this article. It jeopardises the independence of UA:PBC and could derail its current reform into a genuine service to the citizens, which is a key goal for the government.

It also says it will post an alert on the CoE’s platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.

Netia opts for ADB solution

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s leading alternative telco Netia has chosen ADB’s latest generation gateway VV 5822 to deliver multimedia services to individual and business customers.

Commenting on the development, Jacek Galik, SVP sales at ADB, said: “The decision made by such a big telecommunication player like Netia, to adopt ADB’s access gateway, confirms that our broadband solutions are reliable, efficient and cost-effective and what’s most important address the needs of today’s end-users who demand advanced networking capabilities. We are excited to cooperate with Netia and enable individual users as well as small and medium businesses to enjoy best-in-class broadband services across Poland“.

Bartlomiej Zaremba, director of network development and management department at Netia, added: “Netia offers one of the fastest internet connections in Poland, with download speed up to 900 Mbps. To be able to fully use such parameters, our clients need modern and advanced network devices. ADB’s latest generation broadband gateways fully leverage the advantages of our fibre-optic FTTB/ETTH networks and guarantee reliable internet and innovative TV services, both via cable and Wi-Fi”.

BBC news for Belarus

By Chris Dziadul

Belsat TV broadcasts to Belarus now feature primetime news bulletins in Russian from the BBC.

The bulletins consist of selected topics relevant and timely for viewers in the country, with the BBC story of the day being introduced live by a presenter in the BBC’s Broadcasting House in London.

Commenting on the development, BBC World Service Europe region editor, Artyom Liss, said: “We are very pleased to be able to bring our journalism to Belsat’s audiences. The BBC is well known for its accurate, independent and unbiased news coverage which, I am sure, will be of great interest to viewers in Belarus.”

Poland-based Belsat TV was created in 2007 by a group of Belarusian and Polish journalists as part of public broadcaster TVP, in partnership with Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several European governments and foundations.

Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy, Belsat TV’s Director, added: “It’s great that we can start our cooperation with such a renowned company as the BBC and further improve our ability to serve the needs of our viewers in Belarus and neighbouring countries. I also believe that our new relationship with the BBC is a sign of recognition for the professionalism of Belarus- and Russia-based journalists who work with us, often in very difficult conditions.”

The BBC’s TV news content in Russian is available via the website bbc.com/russian, Moscow-based TV Rain and its website tvrain.ru, and on some of the BBC Russian social-media channels.

In addition to the website, bbc.com/russian, the BBC connects with its Russian-speaking audiences via social media such as Facebook,VKontakte, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, Google+, LiveJournal and OK.ru.

Elisa heads Estonian pay-TV market

By Chris Dziadul

Elisa assumed top spot in Estonia’s pay-TV market last summer and ended the year with 202,500 customers receiving its services.

Quoting data produced by the Technical Surveillance Authority, the company says that it was closely followed by Telia (197,300), with STV a distant third (87,000).

Elisa adds that it was also the leading provider of mobile services in Estonia as the Q4 2017, followed by Telia and STV.

Elisa secured top spot in the pay-TV sector following the end of FTA broadcasts by TV3 and Kanal2, the country’s two leading commercial broadcasters.

Elisa’s operations include the former Starman, the leading cable operator in Estonia, which it acquired in December 2016 in a deal worth €151 million.

Eleven Sports/Canal+ secure LaLiga rights for Poland

By Chris Dziadul

Eleven Sports and Canal+ have acquired LaLiga rights in Poland for three years, starting August 2018.

The new deal will see Eleven Sports and Canal+ both show five live matches each on an exclusive basis each match week week from August 2018 until 2021. They will alternate first picks each week, with both showing live action frok every El Clasico league fixture simultaneously.

Commenting on the development, Krzysztof Swiergiel, MD, Poland, Eleven Sports, said: “Eleven Sports has been focused on delivering the event experience beyond the 90 minutes to bring fans close to the LaLiga action with our world class studio and in-stadia analysis, player interviews and magazine shows. We are therefore thrilled to be awarded rights for the three upcoming LaLiga seasons ensuring that we will deliver outstanding coverage of one of the top football leagues in Europe”.

The agreement with LaLiga also includes highlights and near live clips for social media for both Eleven Sports and Canal+.

Czech R2B2 expands programmatic HbbTV network

By Chris Dziadul

The Czech thematic channel Retro Music TV has begun programmatic sales of ad space on HbbTV.

Purchases and sales can be made via the digital ad network R2B2 Multiscreen.

Retro Music TV is now the third music channel on the network after Ocko and Ocko Star. Claiming around 250,000 viewers a day, it focuses on the “greatest hits and music information from the 60s to the begiining of the new millennium”.

Ad space can be bought via the Adform DSP. The ad tech is provided by Hybrid, a partner company of R2B2.

With Retro Music TV, there are now a total of 12 TV channels on R2B2’s programmatic network.

TVP opens up VOD content

By Chris Dziadul

A large amount of paid on demand content from the Polish public broadcaster’s TVP VOD service has been made available free of charge to viewers exempt from the receiver licence fee.

To access the content, they need to activate a TVP account on tvp.pl or vod.tvp.pl with a subscribers’ identfication number.

According to TVP, the free content on its one demand service has been available since the beginning of this month.

Satellite TV encryption gathers pace in Ukraine

By Chris Dziadul

The Ukrainian regulator National Council has reissued satellite licences for the channels Inter, NTN, Mega, K1, K2, Pixel, Enter-film and Zoom, all of which are part of the Inter Media Group.

According to Mediasat and Detector Media, this is due to changes in the technical characteristics of the channels, which are now encrypted.

The only requirement of the licences is that Inter Media Group has to allow the National Council access to the channels so that they can be monitored.

The National Council has also issued a satellite licence for Inter+, which is aimed at viewers living outside Ukraine.

By this autumn, all four leading media groups in Ukraine – StarLightMedia, 1 + 1 Media, Media Group Ukraine and Inter Media Group – plan to have their satellite-delivered channels encrypted.

Meelis Anton joins Levira board

By Chris Dziadul

Meelis Anton, head of Levira’s network services, has become a member of the company’s board of directors.

He joins Tiit Tammiste, the chairman of the management board; Indrek Lepp, the director of media services; and Taavi Tapner, the finance director; on the board.

Anton has been instrumental in the development of Levira’s IoT business, which was launched last year and now has many cooperation agreements.

Prior to joining Levira, he worked for Ericsson’s Austrian and Estonian units and Eesti Post and Cybernetics.

Levira is based in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, and provides digital services.

It is 51% owned by the Republic of Estonia, with France’s TDF holding the remaining 49% of shares.

Ukraine approves Blue Hustler

By Chris Dziadul

The Ukrainian regulator National Council has approved the distribution of the adult channel Blue Hustler in the country.

In a statement, it says it reviewed an appeal by Amsterdam-based Sapphire Media International regarding the compliance of the channel with the requirements of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television and current Ukrainian legislation.

Blue Hustler now has been added to the list of foreign channels permitted in Ukraine.

Its distribution will be allowed on cable networks between midnight and 4am.

Poland’s MWE starts international expansion

By Chris Dziadul

The Polish TV production company and thematic channel operator Michal Winnicki Entertainment (MWE) has established a branch in the Czech capital, Prague.

In a statement, it says that as a result its proprietary channels Power TV HD, Adventure HD and Top Kids HD will shortly make their debuts in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

It adds that aside from being distributed via cable and satellite, they will for the first time also be offered on terrestrial TV (DVB-T). All the channels will be fully localised and also carry locally produced content.

MWE says that the Czech broadcast centre will use the most modern distribution technology including HD and 4K Ultra HD.

Significantly, it also says that the company will expand to more markets this year.

Orion starts 2018 on high

By Chris Dziadul

The Russian DTH platform operator Orion ended the first quarter with a subscriber base of 3,107,000.

The fastest growing regions were Chelyabinsk and Omsk, which saw the number of customers increase by 4% and 3% respectively. The company had revenues of R822,800,000 (€10,732,000) in Q1, or 8% more than in the same period last year.

DTH services accounted for 72% of Orion’s portfolio, with broadcasting services and the upgrade of TV channels claiming 24% and channel distribution 4%. ARPU in Q1 was R107 for its budget and R293 for mid-priced packages.

Orion notes that it continues to strengthen its position in the online environment. The number of subscriptions to its mobile app Telecard Online increased by 19% in Q1, with the total number of installations (iOS and Android) amounting to 58,192. Meanwhile, the online service Cinema was visited 63,000 times, with over 21,000 items of film content watched.

At the same time, the number of installations of the mobile app Telegrid increased by 16%, with the total number of downloads amounting to 127,904.