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Today β€” July 22nd 2019Broadband TV News: Central & East Europe

Tricolor unveils OTT plans

By Chris Dziadul

The Russian DTH platform operator Tricolor plans to launch its own OTT service this October.

Speaking at a press conference late last week and quoted by Kommersant, its deputy DG for strategic and operational marketing Andrei Nesterov said that the service plans to be one of the top three in the country within the next three years.

He added that this would not be difficult, given Tricolor’s client base. The company currently has 12.232 million customers and the new service is being tested on 10,000.

Although Nesterov did not disclose the cost of setting up the new service or the funding model it will use, he revealed that it could consider using more than one of the latter.

In addition, he said that the service would be made available to non-Tricolor customers.

Nesterov also said that Tricolor is currently negotiating with key filmmakers about making its own series.

Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Central & East Europe

Telekom Romania to shed 700 staff

By Chris Dziadul

The Romanian incumbent plans to lay off nearly 12% of its workforce.

Quoting an announcement by the company, Business Review reports that by shedding 692 employees it will be expanding a restructuring process that began two years ago due to lower revenues and record losses.

The majority of the losses (438) will be in Telekom Romania Communications, with the remainder (254) in Telekom Romania Mobile Communications.

Deutsche Telekom-backed OTE is currently in the process of selling its majority stake in Telekom Romania.

Favourites to buy the stake include RCS&RDS, Orange Romania, Russia’s ER-Telecom and the Bulgarian entrepreneur Spas Roussev.

OTT milestone for Tricolor

By Chris Dziadul

Russia’s Tricolor has secured over 500,000 customers for its OTT service in only the first two months.

Furthermore, it expects to increase the number to 2 million by the end of the year, primarily due to new connections.

In a statement, the company adds that it will open its OTT service to non-Tricolor customers this October.

Tricolor has created what it terms as an ecosystem that is already open to all its 12.232 million customers.

It allows them to consume content in the most convenient way, be it via satellite or the internet.

Tricolor says it is in negotiations to open up the ecosystem to leading companies from various industries, allowing them to offer partner services.

nc+ to rebrand as Platforma Canal+

By Chris Dziadul

The Polish DTH platform nc+ is likely to be rebranded as Platforma Canal+ in the next few months.

Quoting a note supplied by the platform’s operator ITI Neovision, Wirtualne Media reports that the reason for the change is the strengthening of the Canal+ mark in nc+’s portfolio.

Nc+ was formed in 2013 by the merger of the DTH platforms Cyfra+ and n.

ITI Neovision is majority (51%) owned by Canal+, with TVN (32%) and Liberty Global (17%) its other backers.

A1 grows pay-TV business

By Chris Dziadul

A1 Telekom Austria ended the first half with 517,300 pay-TV subscribers in Bulgaria, or 4.2% more than in the same period last year.

However, pay-TV subscriber growth in Croatia was even more impressive, with its subsidiary growing its base by 10.1% to 238,900 in the year to June 30, and in Slovenia, where it grew by 12.5% to 64,400.

Other CEE markets also performed well in the pay-TV segment. In Belarus, for instance, the pay-TV subscriber total increased by 5.6% to reach 387,000 and in North Macedonia by 5.5% to 131,200.

In the company’s home market Austria, A1 saw its pay-TV subscriber total grow by 4.2% to reach 317,900.

A1 Group had total revenues of €2,212.1 million in the first half of this year, or 2.1% more than in the corresponding period in 2018.

EBITDA was €766.2 million (-2.4%) and net profit €155.9 million (+80.2%).

SPI expands in Russia

By Chris Dziadul

SPI/FilmBox has expanded its channel distribution agreement with Russia’s Beeline TV to include six of the most popular SPI/FilmBox channels.

Aside from the flagship FilmBox, they are FilmBox Arthouse, DocuBox, Fast & FunBox, FashionBox and FightBox.

Commenting on the development, Murat Muratoglu, head of distribution at SPI, said: “We are delighted to announce that SPI/FilmBox will now be able to deliver hundreds of hours of quality programming to the homes of Beeline TV subscribers in Russia. This important collaboration was made possible through our partnership with Orion and we are excited to provide top-quality content to more viewers across Russia”.

Alexei Zhuraviev, director of development at Beeline TV, added: “Today’s users of video services are expecting a wide variety of high-quality content. We fulfil that expectation with our Beeline recommendation system, which is designed to make sure our viewers will have full access to all of SPI/FilmBox’s channels”.

Irina Divnogortseva, global projects director of Orion Group of Companies, said: “Orion is proud to partner with SPI/FilmBox. We made sure that all technical and production aspects were ready on time for this launch and we are excited that all Beeline TV subscribers in Russia, will now have access to these fantastic SPI/FilmBox channels”.

SPI expands in Russia

UPC Polska launches mobile services

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s leading cable operator UPC Polska has added mobile to its portfolio and introduced a new converged offer.

The mobile part of the offer is based on four main tariff plans, namely Smart, Comfort, Super and VIP. All include unlimited calls in Poland, unlimited SMS and MMS, as well as roaming services.

It also includes internet packages of 5, 10,15 and 20GB, as well as a promotional offer for junior users.

TV and internet subscribers who purchase a mobile service will also be offered a premium package (HBO, Polsat Sport Premium+ Eleven Sports or the Safety Package for only PL1 (€0.23) for the first two months.

UPC Polska’s mobile service also includes an offer for businesses that contains higher data packages.

Commenting on the development, UPC Polska CEO Robert Redeleanu said: “Launching the mobile offer is a strategic step for us as well as another promise we have made to our clients. By introducing mobile services, we become a fully convergent operator providing the best internet and digital entertainment, anytime, anywhere. Our offer, based on gigabit speeds and the best integrated TV content, complemented by a mobile service, stands out in the market and ensures best-in-class customer service in a competitive telecommunications market”.

Latvia’s Tet grows turnover

By Chris Dziadul

The Latvian incumbent Tet, formerly known as Lattelecom, has posted a turnover of €105 million for the first six months of this year.

This, according to the company, was 6% more than in the corresponding period last year.

At the same time, investment in the development of the Helio iTV and Shortcut platforms resulted in Tet’s TV turnover growing by 3%.

Other business areas, including new lines such as electricity (27%) and advertising services (9%), also saw increases in turnover.

Tet paid €25.8 million to the state in the form of taxes and the 2018 profit was distributed to shareholders (€32.5 million, of which €16.6 million was to the Latvian state).

Commenting on Tet’s performance in the first six months of this year, its chairman Juris Gulbis said: “We have done a lot in the second quarter of the year – on April 1, we changed our brand and name, working on service upgrades and continuing digital transformation to provide customers with the most convenient, up-to-date and easy-to-use services. For hockey fans we provided the opportunity to watch the world championship games in HD quality, participated in the Tet Riga Marathon and the Urban Culture and eSports Festival HyperTown. We have invested in the development of Helio iTV and Shortcut to provide our customers with the best viewing experience and the best, most diverse content, and together with Ukrainian television we are creating the first co-production series in Latvia – Markuss”.

Media Group Ukraine teams up with Kartina.TV

By Chris Dziadul

Media Group Ukraine (MGU) has entered into a partnership with Kartina.TV, one of Europe’s leading OTT operators.

As a result, the latter will be able to rebroadcast the international versions of TV channels such as Ukraine and NLO TV, Ukraine 1/Ukraine 2 and NLO TV 1/NLO TV 2 respectively.

Kartina.TV can be received online anywhere in the world and currently has 5 million viewers in Europe, the US, Israel and UAE.

Commenting on the agreement, Aleksandr Remezovsky, director distribution pay-TV channels and media platform department, MGU, said: “The international channels promotion is one of MGU’s strategic activity areas. The partnership relationship with Kartina.TV, a major international player, opens exciting prospects, because from now on the worldwide multimillion audience will become acquainted with the media group’s product. We are pleased and honoured to witness Ukrainian content erasing the boundaries and getting closer to viewers the world over”.

Croatian broadcasters on a roll

By Chris Dziadul

Seven of Croatia’s top 10 TV broadcasters performed better last year than in 2017.

Furthermore, reports Poslovni, only one ended the year with a loss and the two leading stations – Nova TV and RTL Televizija – saw their profit increase to HRK51.9 million (€7 million) and HRK13.4 million respectively.

Now under new ownership, Nova TV’s profit effectively doubled from the HRK26.5 million posted the previous year, while its revenues rose by HRK30 million to HRK418.7 million.

RTL Televizija, on the other hand, saw its profit triple from the HRK4.5 million posted in 2017, while its revenues increased from HRK303.9 million to HRK342.6 million.

Although the public broadcaster HRT’s profit fell from HRK100 million in 2017 to HRK81.3 million last year, it was much higher than the planned figure of HRK5.5 million.

2018 saw HRT launch a fifth channel and also invest significant funds in covering a number of sporting events.

Hungarian state eyes Telenor stake

By Chris Dziadul

The Hungarian state is interested in acquiring a 25% stake in Telenor Hungary, which is currently owned by the Czech Republic’s PPF Group.

Quoting Népszava, Portfolio reports that any purchase would be undertaken through Antenna Hungária and that negotiations with the company’s top management are already under way.

It adds that the Hungarian state had previously set itself the goal of having its own mobile provider but the initiative came to nothing after a long period of preparation.

As Telenor Hungary is estimated to be worth between HUF200-400 billion (€614 million -1.23 billion), the Hungarian state would have to pay between HUF50-100 billion for a 25% stake. The funds received by PPF Group would help it launch 5G services in Hungary.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, PPF Group acquired Telenor’s interests in Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, for a total of €2.8 billion.

Cyfrowy Polsat declares OTT revolution

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s Cyfrowy Polsat has launched a new OTT service that can be accessed with an internet connection from any provider.

Clients have a choice of nine programme packages, paying for only those they select, for only 30 days if they wish and without any long-term commitment. These will come alongside the new dedicated decoder named Evobox Stream, which can obtained with a contract or prepaid.

Clients will also receive Cyfrowy Polsat’s full programme offer of over 100 channels (including HBO, Eleven Sports and Polsat Sport Premium) free of charge for three months, and have access to free DTT channel through the Evobox Stream decoder.

Commenting on the development, Maciej Stec, VP of the management board for strategy at Cyfrowy Polsat and Polkomtel, said: “We give our clients a new, revolutionary, very flexible access to television content. If they have any internet at home, from any provider, they can now have our television – everything they want, with the packages they want and without a fixed subscription, and the decoder can connect either to cable or via Wi-Fi. It is a consistent implementation of our idea: “Television – For everyone. Everywhere. Internet – For everyone. Everywhere. Telephone – For everyone. Everywhere”.

Roussev prepares Vivacom sale, sets sights on Telekom Romania

By Chris Dziadul

The Bulgarian entrepreneur Spas Roussev has confirmed that the country’s leading telco Vivacom, in which he is the main shareholder, has been put up for sale.

Quoting two sources familiar with the matter, Reuters reported late last week that indicative offers are expected by the end of this month.

It added that Russia’s VTB Bank, a minority shareholder, has meanwhile said that feedback from potential buyers is expected by the end of the summer.

Roussev currently owns 46% of Vivacom, with VTB (20% minus one share) and Delta Capital (19%) the two other main shareholders.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, Vivacom has just claimed a legal victory over offshore entities challenging its current ownership.

This followed a ruling last week by the English Commercial Court.

Broadband TV News believes that by disposing of his stake in Vivacom Spas Roussev could be in a stronger position to buy a majority (70%) stake in Telekom Romania from Deutsche Telekom-owned OTE.

He, along with Orange and RCS&RDS, are among the frontrunners to gain control of the telco.

Euronews advances into Serbia

By Chris Dziadul

Euronews has entered into a partnership with the Serbian media group HD-WIN to launch Euronews Serbia, a news channel and digital platform aimed at a Serbian-speaking audience.

HD-WIN is owned by Telekom Srbija and currently broadcasts sport-themed channels.

According to Euronews, ahead of Euronews Serbia’s broadcast launch, almost 100 members of staff will be recruited locally. The Serbian media’s editor-in-chief will be recruited by Euronews and will be a Euronews employee. An editorial board will be established and controlled by Euronews: it will, in particular, delimit strategic editorial orientations, and will take any decision establishing rules regarding the editorial line and the general balance of programmes, which are linked to the media’s fundamental values such as editorial independence, freedom of expression and impartiality.

Commenting on the development, Michael Peters, Euronews’ CEO, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with HD-WIN to create a quality independent media. The launch of Euronews Serbia is yet another testament to how reliable and attractive the Euronews brand is. In the past 25 years, Euronews has become a recognised and trustworthy media, thanks in particular to our “All Views” editorial line, which guarantees an impartial treatment of news. It’s this experience, this expertise and this requirement that we are bringing today to Euronews Serbia, which will be an independent media as Euronews has always been.”

Predrag Culibrk, CEO of Telekom Srbija, added: “It is our great pleasure to offer our viewers in Serbia and the region a new news channel in Serbian with content tailored to a local audience, by associating ourselves with the brand and standards of one of the leading media houses in Europe and the world – Euronews. In addition, we appreciate the trust that Euronews placed upon us by this partnership, as it unambiguously confirms that we are a company operating in compliance with high European standards. Embracing the role of the regional leader in the field of telecommunications, we will strive to achieve and maintain partnerships with the best players in their respective industries in order to provide our customers with top-quality services.”

IPTV, broadband grow in Slovenia

By Chris Dziadul

IPTV accounted for 54.7% of pay-TV homes in Slovenia in the first quarter, according to the latest figures published by the regulator AKOS.

Cable, whose take-up fell, claimed 38.8%, with satellite (5.3%) and MMDS (1.2%) the remainder.

In other sectors of the industry, the market share of broadband fibre connections grew to 48.5% in Q1.

In the broadband market as a whole, over half of connections (52.4%) were at speeds of 30Mbps or higher, a five percentage point increase on three months earlier.

Fixed broadband penetration grew to 81.8% of households and 32.5% of the population.

Croatia makes key electronic comms decisions

By Chris Dziadul

The Croatian regulator HAKOM has made two important decisions related to the country’s electronic communications market.

In a statement, it sys the first was to grant DTT licences for the national multiplexes M1 and M2 and regional multiplex L1 to the national transmission company OiV.

M2 will begin transmissions no later than September 15, 2019 and achieve full coverage on July 1, 2020. Meanwhile, M2 will achieve full coverage by November 15, 2019 and L1 on July 22, 2020.

HAKOM’s second decision relates to changes in the Ordinance on Amendments to the Rulebook on the manner and conditions for the performance of the activities of electronic communications networks and services.

The changes will partly come into effect on August 1 this year and January 1, 2020.

Ukrainian TV station attacked

By Chris Dziadul

The Ukrainian TV station 112 has been subjected to what the local police have described as a “terrorist attack”.

Telekritka reports that two unknown persons used a grenade launcher in the action, causing minor external damage to its headquarters in Kiev.

112 is supportive of the Kremlin and following the attack, believed to have been undertaken by Ukrainian nationalists, its editorial board have decided to cancel a screening of Oliver Stone’s documentary film The Untold Story of Ukraine.

Digi head sells shares

By Chris Dziadul

Serghei Bulgac, the DG of Digi Communications, has sold 100,000 shares in the company.

Quoting data published by the Bucharest Stock Exchange, Ziarul Financiar reports that the shares cost RON30 (€6.33) each, placing their total market value at RON3 billion.

It adds that this was the biggest sale of shares in Digi Communications so far this year.

Digi Communications is a one of the leading providers of pay-TV and broadband services in Romania (RCS&RDS) and Hungary (Digi).

NTV-Plus OTT platform gains customers

By Chris Dziadul

The OTT platform operated by Russia’s NTV-Plus saw its paying subscriber base grow by 55,000, or over 10%, in the second quarter.

According to NTV-Plus, the most popular way of receiving its OTT service by customers who do not use the company’s satellite TV service was by subscription, accounting for over half of all users. This was 9% more than in Q1 and over double that a year earlier.

NTV-Plus notes that it is not necessary to be a DTH subscriber in order to receive the OTT service.

DTH subscribers, who have the opportunity to use the Online TV (multiscreen) service, make up 26% of the total number of paying subscribers to the OTT platform.

According to Konstantin Smirnov, director of the digital products department at NTV-Plus, the service is constantly evolving. “The NTV-Plus application for smart TV has recently appeared on LG TVs. Considering that NTV-Plus online TV is also available on the ntvplus.tv website, in mobile apps for iOS, Android, Apple TV and Android TV, we can say that we are absolutely on all devices. In addition, users have new features that are offered by the Watch Now service. It allows you to not miss the most interesting films, programmes and sporting events that have been on air in the last 24 hours. Special themed “tapes” allow subscribers to focus attention, showing the time remaining until the moment when interesting content leaves the available archive.”

New sports channels from nc+

By Chris Dziadul

The Polish DTH platform nc+ has added two new proprietary sports channel to its offer.

Known as Canal+ Sport 3 and Canal+ Sport 4, they are dedicated to coverage of the Polish premier football league PKO Ekstraklasa and will be made available for distribution by other TV operators. Local reports indicate that one of them could be Cyfrowy Polsat, nc+’s main competitor.

Commenting on the launch, nc+ CEO Edyta Sadowska said: “The launch of two new channels dedicated to PKO Ekstraklasa games will allow the extension of the distribution model of national competitions to include further TV platforms. The long-term advantage is not only for all fans, but also for PKO Ekstraklasa and football clubs. For us, it is also possible to monetise expensive sports rights in the entire market, and not only on our own platform”.