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Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Central & East Europe

Pay-TV to develop in Ukraine

By Chris Dziadul

A new media bill currently being prepared in Ukraine could promote the development of pay-TV services.

However, to do so, it will, according to Konstantin Gritsak, the director of external relations at the country’s leading cable operator Volia, have to adhere to two principles.

The first is the creation of appropriate conditions for competition while at the same time keeping the influence of the state on the media to a minimum. The second is maintaining the principle of technological neutrality.

In Gritsak’s view, the legislation could also pave the way for locally produced thematic channels with which pay-TV operators will cooperate.

Gritsak also spoke favourably about how it will protect intellectual property.

IPTV gains in Slovenia

By Chris Dziadul

IPTV accounted for 56.1% of pay-TV connections in Slovenia in the first quarter.

According to figures published by the regulator AKOS, its market share continues to grow, while those of other technologies is falling. Cable accounted for 37.8%, satellite TV 5.1% and MMDS 1% as of Q1.

Meanwhile, penetration of fixed broadband grew by 0.5% in the first three months of this year to reach 83.7%. NGA broadband internet access is also growing and accounted for 83% of connection in Q1.

Triple play packages continued to grow in popularity had a market share of 36% in the first quarter.

On the other hand, the share of quadruple (40.2%) and double (9.5%) play packages fell, while standalone broadband access (8.9%) and converged services that do not include service packages (5.6%) remained unchanged.

Over a third (34.7%) of broadband users opted for access speeds of over 100 Mbps.

Christina Sulebakk to head HBO Europe

By Chris Dziadul

Christina Sulebakk has been appointed general manager of HBO Europe, including the linear networks and streaming service, effective immediately.

In her new role, she will report into Priya Dogra, president, WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks, EMEA and APAC.
Sulebakk replaces Hervé Payan who served as CEO of HBO Europe for eight years and who will be leaving the company at the end of August 2020.

Commenting on the appointment, Dogra said: “Christina is a tremendously talented executive who has been integral to the success of HBO Europe. She has a deep understanding of direct-to-consumer businesses and has played a pivotal role in the development of our international plans. She will be a key force in driving our growth in Europe”.

She continued: “We’re incredibly grateful to Hervé for his leadership in building and growing the HBO Europe business and importantly, for his vision in launching streaming video offerings in key markets in Europe. I’ve personally worked closely with Hervé over the past few years and I’ve appreciated his entrepreneurial spirit, his focus on innovation and good sense of humour. We are thankful to Hervé for staying on until the end of August to ensure a smooth transition of this important business”.

Payan said: “I am enormously proud of what the HBO Europe team has achieved over the years. I am delighted to see the torch pass to Christina. She has been here since the outset and I’m sure she will play a valuable role in accelerating the pace of the business”.

Sulebakk said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled about my new role and our ambitious plans for HBO Europe. Working on this iconic brand with exceptionally talented colleagues at such a pivotal time in the industry has been an educational and enriching experience. I can’t wait to get started on the opportunities that lie ahead as we build on the strong foundation that is Hervé’s legacy.”

Sulebakk has been at HBO Europe for over eight years, most recently serving as executive VP, CMO & head of distribution. During her years at HBO Europe she has been based in Madrid, Budapest and New York and has played pivotal roles in transforming the Central European business into streaming and launching HBO España.

Bulgarian digital advertising takes off

By Chris Dziadul

The internet advertising market in Bulgaria grew by 19.4% in 2019.

According to Capital, quoting the findings of the AdEx 2019 survey produced by IAB Bulgaria, it was worth a net BGN122.1 million (€62.4 million), though most participants in the survey now expect a double-digit contraction in online advertising this year.

Although the Bulgarian market performed much better than most others in Europe last year, with the average increase in 2019 being 12.3%, it will have to grow still faster to catch up with other markets.

In 2018, internet ad spend per capita was, at €7.2 one of the lowest in Europe. It was followed by Belarus, Serbia and Romania.

Media Group Ukraine combines OTT and DTH services

By Chris Dziadul

Media Group Ukraine (MGU) is combining its Oll.TV OTT and Xtra TV DTH services into a single operation.

According to the company, the process began last month and Yulia Trybushna will lead the project on behalf of MGU, while Yuriy Cherednichok will remain the director of both legal entities of the Oll.TV and Xtra TV brands.

Commenting on the development, Fedir Grechaninov, director of strategy and business development of MGU, said: “The idea of merging our Oll.TV and Xtra TV platforms lies on the surface – every Ukrainian should have access to high-quality legal content, anywhere in the country, regardless of the type of reception. Not all of Ukraine is covered by high-quality high-speed internet, which is necessary for comfortable viewing of Oll.TV internet TV. Therefore, the satellite remains a priority type of reception for many viewers. A single operator will help to choose for each viewer the best type of reception, or their mix, depending on the needs of the user. Big changes are not possible without professionals, and I am happy to present an updated team. Yulia Trybushna, a former operator who previously headed the pay TV & digital division at StarLightMedia, will head the joint operator. Yuriy Cherednichok will be responsible for sales and communication with customers. Vitaliy Chirkov will develop the direction of the content strategy. Mykola Koretsky will manage the development and support of the platform software. Andriy Ornatsky will be in charge of marketing. Oleksandr Remezovsky will be responsible for negotiations with content owners, continuing to manage the distribution of MSU TV channels and platforms.

“The updated team began to implement the first changes. In particular, a new unique tariff grid of the Oll.TV service – all inclusive – was launched. We already have a lot of data and positive feedback to say – users like the new rates. I think in the near future we will announce even more positive news, achievements and changes”.

Yulia Trybushna added: “Ukraine’s pay-TV market is growing rapidly, both in terms of the number of consumers and in terms of money. Promoting streaming platforms, combating piracy, increasing the consumption of video content on demand, changing the behaviour and preferences of viewers. Of course, competition is growing: existing platforms and services are growing their subscriber base, experimenting with content and functionality, and international players are beginning to pay attention to the market. Becoming a leader in such a market is a real challenge, but I am sure that with the team of proactive professionals Oll.TV and Xtra TV the goal is quite achievable in the coming years”.

MGU also says that Boris Danilov has left Oll.TV and will continue to develop his career outside the company.

Lithuania bans Russia Today

By Chris Dziadul

The Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTK) has suspended the free reception of Russia Today (RT) channels retransmitted or distributed over the internet in the Republic of Lithuania.

In a statement, the regulator says that “in the past, the LRTK had taken note of the decision of the Latvian National Electronic Media Council (hereinafter – NEPLP) to suspend the said programmes (RT, RT HD, RT Spanish, RT Documentary and RT Documentary HD) and its call on other EU members to do the same, but this required appropriate conclusions from the competent authorities.

“After receiving a conclusion from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania – the institution competent for the implementation of sanctions – the LRTK decided to suspend the free reception of the above-mentioned television programmes in Lithuania”.

LRTK notes that in Lithuania the RT channels are distributed by three of the 45 economic entities it regulates in the area of TV channel retransmission.

Its chairman Mantas Martisius also says that its decision to suspend the RT channels is the same as that given by NEPLP, namely that RT is effectively controlled by Dmitri Kiselev, “who is a subject to sanctions imposed by Council of the European Union (EU) for undermining of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, NEPLP imposed a ban on RT channels last week.

DVB-T2 restart in Czech Republic

By Chris Dziadul

The transition to the DVB-T2 standard has restarted in the Czech Republic following a delay brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the country’s national transmission company Ceske Radiokomunikace (CRa) says that it recommenced in Western Bohemia on July 8 and will conclude with the Valasske Klobouky- Plostiny transmitter on October 29.

Commenting on the benefits of terrestrial broadcasting, CRa’s president Vit Vazan said: “We know from the previous stages of the transition to DVB-T2 that the popularity of terrestrial television is still the highest of all platforms for TV signal reception. People also liked the possibilities of interactive services, such as HbbTV – connecting TV with the internet. Viewers can also watch some programmes in higher resolution, including NASA TV broadcast even in UHD (4K)”.

Formula 1 extends Russian TV rights deal

By Chris Dziadul

Formula 1 and Match TV have extended their TV rights agreement to exclusively show the full FIA Formula 1 World Championship in Russia until 2023.

The three-year agreement will see Match TV show all the action across each race weekend, including free practice, qualification, and race day action. It also includes three more the Formula 2, Formula 3 and the Porsche Supercup racing championships. For the first time ever the entire Formula 1 season and support races will also be launching in market on F1TV.

Commenting on the development, Ian Holmes, director of media rights Formula 1, said: “We are thrilled
to announce a three-year extension with Match TV, they have been a great partner over the years and our new agreement clearly demonstrates their commitment to fans and to the sport. We are also pleased to be launching F1TV in Russia for the first time which will complement their offering and ensure that Formula 1 fans receive unprecedented coverage across all of our properties”.

Aleksey Popov, Match TV commentator, added: “After such a brilliant season opener at the Red Bull Ring last weekend, we are thrilled to announce this exciting three-year agreement with Formula 1 and continue to expand our motorsport offering for fans. Despite a slightly later start to the season than planned, we can’t wait to see what the next stage in the competition will bring as will bring as all the teams battle it out for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship”.

Trio to manage Russia’s Match TV

By Chris Dziadul

The Gazprom Media sports channel Match TV will from now be simultaneously managed by three MDs.

Kommersant reports that they will be Alexander Weinstein, Oleg Rumyantsev and Alexander Tashchin.

Quoting a source familiar with the details, it adds that Tashchin will be responsible for the operational management of the channel, programme strategy, evaluating the feasibility of launching new products and monitoring their effectiveness.

Meanwhile, Rumyantsev will be responsible for marketing and interaction with government agencies and relevant associations, and Weinstein for the purchase of sports rights and interaction with copyright holders and sponsors.

Tashchin previously headed the sports broadcasting directorate of VGTRK, and until 2015 he worked on the Russia 2 channel, on whose frequency Match TV was launched.

Rumyantsev was director of communications at Rostelecom until 2013, and then moved to OKR, where he headed the ANO Directorate of Programmes for Assistance to the OCD Development Directorate, worked with fans and developed committee projects.

Weinstein has worked in sports marketing. Up until 2012, he was the director of the international agency IMG in Russia and the CIS, then he worked at the Telesport agency, and in recent years led his own company Eventmedia.

Orange Slovakia strengthens 5G position

By Chris Dziadul

Orange is now well placed to launch a national 5G network in Slovakia.

According to Zive, this follows the acquisition of four blocks of frequencies in the 3490-3510 MHz band from its competitor Swan at the beginning of this month.

Licences for the blocks, which have a width of 5MHz, are valid until August 2025. Orange also acquired a band suitable for 5G from Slovanet, another competitor, last year.

The licence for it is also valid until August 2025. While Orange, along with O2 and the mobile operator 4ka now have frequencies for full 5G coverage they do not directly own them.

Meanwhile, Slovak Telekom only has a single frequency block in the capital, Bratislava.

Separately, local reports indicate that Orange and Slovak Telekom have been in talks to enter into a FTTH network sharing agreement.

Telekom Srbija on a roll

By Chris Dziadul

The Serbian incumbent Telekom Srbija could be worth up to €4 billion by 2023, according to Vladimir Lucic, its coordinator for the internet and multimedia.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with Blic, he added that its new development strategy and investment policy is paying off, as is evidenced by the company’s results for 2019.

These show it achieved record revenues of RSD133 billion (€1.13 billion), or 7% more than the previous year. EBITDA rose by 24% to RSD48 billion and revenue growth continued in the first quarter of this year.

Lucic said this performance was down to the company’s ‘Million Plus’ strategy. It already has 10.4 million users, of who 2.4 million opt for internet and TV services, which is 664,000 million than in 2018. By the end of this year, it is likely to have up to 3 million internet and TV users.

Lucic added that although Telekom Srbija’s net profit was lower than in previous years, this was largely due to depreciation associated with large investments in optical and mobile networks. It also invested a lot in content and TV channels.

Lucic predicted that record revenues should bring a strong increase in net profit, reaching over €200 million in 2021.

He also spoke of the “multiple benefits” of the company’s recent acquisitions of cable operators, financed through loans, and dismissed claims they had jeopardised its profitability as “malicious”.

Gazprom Media makes managerial changes

By Chris Dziadul

Russia’s Gazprom Media has replaced the management team of its subsidiary GPM Entertainment Television (GPM RTV).

In a statement, it says that within the framework of the existing management structure, from July 7 Svetlana Fefilova, deputy DG of Gazprom Media, and Ruben Oganesov, advisor to the general director, will take on the positions of MDs of GPM RTV. They will manage the company together with Roman Petrenko Commenting on the appointments.

Alexander Zharov, general director of Gazprom Media Holding, said: “Gazprom Media is a leader in the entertainment and sports television segment in Russia. A powerful production base has been formed, vast expertise and experience in launching successful projects has been accumulated, GPM RTV television channels are the flagships of domestic broadcasting. The results of our entertainment assets have a huge impact on the operating and financial performance of the holding. In today’s unstable situation, when the industry is undergoing serious transformational changes, we made a logical and informed decision to strengthen the holding’s participation in managing this segment and increase the involvement of Gazprom Media management in the strategic and operational management of the RTV GPM. I am convinced that the new managing directors – Ruben Oganesov and Svetlana Fefilova – will be able to help the sub-holding team take our segment of entertainment TV to a whole new level”.

Vladimir Chopov and Sergey Shishkin, who held the positions of managing directors of GPM RTV, have decided to leave the company.

Smart TV growth slows in Russia

By Chris Dziadul

The penetration of smart TVs in large Russian cities has grown from 29% to 39% in the last year and a half.

This, according to Kommersant, quoting the findings of a study by J’son & Partners Consulting, has been driven by a reduction in the cost of sets.

However, the annual rate of growth of around 20% is no longer expected due to the effects of the pandemic and the market becoming saturated.

In fact, growth in smart TVs is forecast to fall to 14% this year, compared to 19% in both 2019 and 2018 and 18% in 2017.

It will fall still further to 13% in 2021, 12.4% in 2022 and 11.6% in 2023.

By 2022, the penetration of smart TVs will exceed 50% in cities with a population of over 100,000.

New CEOs for Orange in Poland and Belgium

By Chris Dziadul

Julien Ducarroz and Xavier Pichom have been appointed CEO of Orange Polska and Orange Belgium respectively.

Both will take up their new positions on September 1.

Ducarroz is currently the CEO of Orange Moldova and will replace Jean-François Fallacher, who is moving to become CEO of Orange Spain. His appointment will be fully ratified when Orange’s supervisory board is able to conduct the necessary formal voting, which should take place on the occasion of its planned meeting on July 21.

Meanwhile, Pinchon will succeed Michaël Trabbia, who will join the Orange executive committee CTIO for the group, overseeing the technology & global innovation division. He will re-join Orange from the Boston Consulting Group; prior to this, he was deputy CEO at Orange France, leading its finance, strategy, transformation and development.

Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière will take over responsibility for the Europe region from Ramon Fernandez, deputy CEO, finance, performance and Europe director. From September 1, she will be leading the Europe perimeter of Orange, which will comprise Belgium, Luxembourg, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Spain.

The rest of the European leadership team remains unchanged, with Jean-Marc Vignolles as COO for Europe, Liudmila Climoc as CEO of Orange Romania, Federico Colom as CEO of Orange Slovakia and Corinne Lozé as CEO of Orange Luxembourg.

Orange is currently recruiting for a new CEO for Orange Moldova, who will be announced in due course.

Netia revamps TV service

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s leading alternative telco Netia has launched what it describes as a completely new TV service.

It consists of three programme packages, consisting of 79, 101 and 184 channels, and internet access of up to 300 Mbps. The cost is PLN50 (€11.2), PLN60 and PLN90 a month respectively, with the first month offered free of charge.

The service can also be supplemented with premium programme packages (Eleven Sports Polsat Sport Premium, HBO HD, FilmBox, Canal+ Prestige and a six-channel adult package), additional receivers (multiroom), giga PVR and internet access of up to 1 Gpbs.

The service is produced in cooperation with the Polsat Group, both in terms of content and the Netia EvoBox.

According to Piotr Szymanowski, the director of strategic marketing at Netia, “When creating the new TV offer, we aimed to simplify it as much as possible, but also to maintain the high flexibility that Netia is famous for. The result is a three-stage basic offer that can be freely enriched with premium content at very affordable prices”.

Tomasz Dakowski, general director B2C and a member of Netia’s board, added: “The new offer and modern decoder, manufactured by Polsat Group, is undoubtedly the most attractive and affordable offer on the Polish market. I am convinced that thanks to close cooperation within Polsat Group, Netia – which has been one of the most dynamically growing pay TV providers in Poland for years – will acquire more and more satisfied customers”.

Orange Romania unveils TV Go box

By Chris Dziadul

Orange Romania has launched a new receiver known as the TV Go box.

An HDMI device, it can be connected to the internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet and slows users to access content from the Orange TV Go service or from YouTube directly on to their TVs.

They can watch TV channels and also use a multitude of interactive features including restart and record.

Also included are shows and movies offered through Orange Fun and Orange Home cable and satellite subscriptions.

The TV Go box can be used by subscribers on holiday in the European Economic Area to watch local TV channels and their favourite programme schedule.

Meanwhile, Orange Love customers, depending on the package they opt for, can now have access to HBO and HBO Go services included for six months.

Those opting for Orange Love cam addition buy the TV Go box for €25 rather than the standard price of €50.

Telekom Srbija closes in on Kosovo’s Ipko

By Chris Dziadul

Telekom Srbija has entered the second round of tenders to acquire the Kosovan telco Ipko Communications.

Quoting Telekom Srbija’s coordinator for internet and multimedia Vladimir Lucic, speaking to the print edition of Blic, Capital adds that the Serbian company is extremely interested in the transaction.

Lucic also said that its offer was economic and not political, stressing that Telekom Srbija already has a fixed and mobile operator in the area of Kosovo and Metohije.

Ipko is currently 100% owned by the Slovenian incumbent Telekom Slovenije and last year the Kosovan regulator RTEPK ruled that it cannot be sold without its prior permission.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, Telekom Srbija is believed to have offered €155 million for Ipko.

Canal+ eyes Polish flotation

By Chris Dziadul

ITI Neovision, the operator of Poland’s Platforma Canal+, plans to enter the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

According to Presserwis, a financial report submitted to the National Court Register revealed that on May 28 an extraordinary meeting of shareholders adopted a resolution regarding the dematerialisation of shares and application to begin trading shares on the exchange.

It also said that an IPO process had started but at the same time reaffirmed Canal+ Group’s intention to remain the main shareholder irrespective of the process.

Canal+ currently holds a 51% stake in ITI Neovision, with TVN and LGI Global Ventures Holding accounting for 32% and 17% respectively.

It has previously been reported that Liberty Global may wish to sell its shares in ITI Neovision.

The extraordinary meeting of shareholders also adopted a resolution to change the company’s name from ITI Neovision to Canal+ Polska.

PPF Group strengthens telco business

By Chris Dziadul

The process of unbundling Telenor’s network infrastructure has been completed in Hungary.

As a result, a new network infrastructure service company named CETIN Hungary started operating on July 1, further strengthening the position of the Czech Republic’s PPF Group, Telenor Hungary’s majority owner.

PPF Group has also launched CETIN companies in Bulgaria and Serbia, and all three, along with CETIN in the Czech Republic, now form the backbone of its operations in the CEE region.

In Hungary, PPF Group is working in partnership with the national transmission company Antenna Hungária.

BBC Studios inks Estonian deal

By Chris Dziadul

BBC Studios has signed a cooperation agreement with the Estonian operator Elisa.

As a result, its content will be offered on Huub, a streaming service available to customers of Elisa Elasmus’ cable service, from this month.

Commenting on the development, Toomas Ili, Elisa’s content procurement manager, said: “In addition to the best domestic series already available from our TV channels, Elisa’s exclusive original series and both domestic and foreign feature films, the first top British series bearing the BBC quality label will reach Huub’s subscribers already in July”.

Salim Mukaddam, VP of collaborative projects and content sales at BBC Studios EMEA, added: “We are happy to start cooperating with Elisa in Estonia to bring our best drama series to their platform. We have been licensing our content in Estonia for many years and we know that the local audience is very interested in British series. We hope to further expand our collaboration in the coming years”.