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Yesterday β€” January 19th 2020Broadband TV News: Cable

Major Polish cable deal wins approval

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) has given its conditional approval to the take-over of Multimedia Polska by Vectra.

In a statement, it says that in order to complete the acquisition of the country’s third largest operator, the second largest will have to sell networks in eight cities and give customers the option to change provider in a further 13.

UOKiK’s decision follows the second stage of an investigation into the proposed transaction in which market research showed that it would lead to a restriction of competition in local markets.

Commenting on the development, UOKIK’s VP Michal Holeksa said: “The condition imposed by us applies to a total of 21 localities. It consists of two parts. The first is structural in nature, i.e. it consists of selling networks. This will apply to eight cities in which the shares of concentration participants are the largest. In the remaining 13, Vectra will have to allow customers to change operators without costs”.

In the eight cities where Vectra will have to sell networks, the operator will have to create new companies into which all its assets are placed. The buyers will not be allowed to belong to, or to be jointly controlled by, Vectra and will have to be approved by UOKiK.

Meanwhile, in the 13 remaining cities, within seven months of the decision being made final Vectra will have nine months to inform customers that they can terminate their pay-TV or broadband contract free of charge.

UOKiK notes that its decision is not final and the applicant can appeal to the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection (SOKiK).

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, Vectra first notified the UOKiK of its intention to buy Multimedia Polska in August 2018.

Earlier in the year, Liberty Global’s UPC Polska withdrew its offer to Multimedia Polska.

Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Cable

DNMG secures Home & Garden TV for German cable

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German network operator association Deutsche Netzmarketing (DNMG) is now offering its more than 200 members the opportunity to distribute free-TV channel Home & Garden TV (HGTV) via cable and IPTV.

The partnership was agreed with parent company Discovery Communications Deutschland. The contract has a term of five years.

Discovery launched HGTV in Germany on June 6, 2019.

Baptiest Coopmans new CEO of UPC Switzerland

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Baptiest Coopmans will become the new CEO of cable operator UPC Switzerland on February 1, 2020.

Coopmans will replace Severina Pascu who took over the CEO position of Liberty Global’s Swiss cable subsidiary almost one and a half year ago. Pascu will stay in the Liberty Global group and support the company’s largest subsidiary, UK cable operator Virgin Media, as deputy CEO and CFO.

Coopmans joined Liberty Global in 2013 as the CEO and managing director of UPC Netherlands, where he led the merger of UPC and Ziggo. He currently oversees technology, network and operations for Liberty Global across Europe as well as the services it delivers to other operators.

Like Pascu, in his new role Coopmans will also oversee Liberty Global’s operations in Poland and Slovakia.

“I am very much looking forward to my new role and to having the opportunity to further execute and build on Switzerland’s growth plan, which Severina has successfully initiated,” said Coopmans. “The Swiss market is challenging and highly competitive, but leads the way in Europe as far as innovation and digitisation are concerned. I’m excited to work with the highly skilled Swiss team and to lead UPC in the second phase of its growth plan.”

Belgian competition authority imposes interim measures on Proximus and Orange

By Julian Clover

The Belgian Competition Authority has imposed interim measures on the new joint venture between Proximus and Orange Belgium.

The two companies plan to share their mobile infrastructure, but following a complaint from rival Telenet, implementation of the plan has been postponed until 16 March 2020.

The Authority and the Belgian Institute for Postal services and Telecommunications (BIPT) will now further investigate the alliance.

In a statement, Telenet said the move was a step in the right direction.

In response, Orange Belgium said it rejected the complaint made by Telenet: “During the proceedings on provisional measures, Orange Belgium and Proximus took some commitments, which do not hinder the objectives of the agreement, to further clarify and answer the points of attention expressed by the BIPT.”

DNMG offers ViacomCBS channels on German cable

By JΓΆrn Krieger

ViacomCBS Networks GSA and German cable operator association DNMG have expanded their partnership, which has existed since 2002.

The new agreement enables the more than 200 cable and platform operators organised in DNMG to distribute MTV, Comedy Central and Nick via cable and IPTV. MTV is included in the digital free-TV line-up for the first time.

“The new agreement with DNMG gives a new boost to MTV’s free-TV reach and is an important building block to reach our target groups with all three channels,” said Michael Keidel, Vice President Content Distribution & Sales at ViacomCBS Networks GSA.

Angel Olabuenaga Buron joins Euskaltel

By Chris Dziadul

Angel Olabuenaga Buron has been appointed the CFO of the Spanish cable operator Euskaltel.

He replaces Jon Anders de las Fuentes, who has left the company.

Buron has more than 19 years of experience in multinational business, most recently as CFO-Latin America for Vestas.

Commenting on his appointment, Eamonn O’Hare, chairman and CEO of Zegona, said: “We see Angel’s arrival as a very positive sign for Euskaltel. We expect his strong operational finance experience will provide valuable support to José Miguel and the rest of the management team as they continue to build on the momentum they have already demonstrated in transforming Euskaltel into a more operationally focussed business.”

Uwe Schiller new CFO of Sunrise

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Uwe Schiller, Senior Vice President Finance and Investor Relations at Sunrise, will become the Swiss telecommunications company’s new CFO with immediate effect.

The move follows the appointment of former CFO André Krause as CEO of Sunrise following the departure of Olaf Swantee who left Sunrise after the failed attempt to take over cable operator UPC Switzerland from Liberty Global.

Schiller has 20 years of experience at Sunrise, having held management positions in networks before joining the finance department in 2003.

“Uwe and I have worked closely together for several years and I’m extremely happy that he has been appointed as the new CFO of Sunrise. This will ensure a seamless handover and continuity within the business,” said CEO André Krause.

CEO Olaf Swantee leaves Sunrise

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Olaf Swantee, CEO of Swiss telecommunications company Sunrise, steps back and will be replaced by André Krause, currently CFO, with immediate effect.

No details were given on the reason for the resignation, but it is likely that the failed takeover of cable operator UPC Switzerland from Liberty Global played a role in the decision. Swantee will support Krause until the annual general meeting in April 2020 to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

Furthermore, Peter Kurer and Peter Schöpfer have decided not to stand for re-election as chairman and vice-chairman of the company at the 2020 annual general meeting.

Euskaltel secures key agreements

By Chris Dziadul

The Spanish cable operator Euskaltel has announced a new agreement giving it long-term access to Orange’s fibre network, covering 14 million households in the country.

It has also announced the renewal of its mobile access agreement with Telefónica on improved financial terms.

Commenting on the developments, Eamonn O’Hare, Zegona’s chairman and CEO, said: “these agreements represent a very important next step in Euskaltel’s new strategic direction. The terms negotiated with Orange and Telefónica provide strong foundations for Euskaltel’s national expansion plan, not only delivering access to millions of new potential customers, but also creating significant cost savings for the business”.

CEO Timm Degenhardt to leave Tele Columbus

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Timm Degenhardt will not extend his contract as CEO of German cable operator Tele Columbus, which is scheduled to end on August 31, 2020.

The reason for his decision are changes in the company’s supervisory board, according to Tele Columbus. The supervisory board accepts Degenhardt’s request and plans to appoint a successor in due course.

Degenhardt took up his role as a member of the management board on September 1, 2017 and assumed the position as CEO on January 1, 2018.

Liberty Global terminates UPC/Sunrise merger discussions

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Liberty Global has terminated discussions regarding the combination of its subsidiary UPC Switzerland with local player Sunrise Communications.

“We wish Sunrise well, but we are moving on. Despite our willingness to show significant flexibility on terms, it’s clear to us that the Sunrise board of directors and their largest shareholder cannot agree amongst themselves on the best path forward,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global.

“As we close that door, we are excited by the success of UPC Switzerland’s turnaround plan and free cash flow generation, and we will obviously consider other strategic options in the marketplace,” added Fries. “We’ve seen in The Netherlands, Belgium and elsewhere around the world, that the industrial logic of fixed-mobile convergence is indisputable. UPC Switzerland is the fulcrum asset in the Swiss telecom market, with a nationwide 1 Gigabit network, the best entertainment platform and a growing fixed-mobile subscriber base.”

Liberty Global and Sunrise announced a binding agreement on February 27, 2019 and the combination received unconditional regulatory approval in September.

However, in October, Sunrise cancelled its extraordinary general meeting, with approval from Liberty Global, due to a dispute with its largest shareholder Freenet and the share purchase agreement providing for the transaction was terminated in November.

After the payment of a CHF50 million break fee by Sunrise to Liberty Global, negotiations continued up until today’s announcement.

Czech cable market consolidates

By Chris Dziadul

The Cyprus-registered company Kaprain Industrial Holding has acquired a 100% stake in Czech operator CentroNet from Eco-Investment for CZK226,666,000 (€8.87 million).

Digizone reports that Kaprain already owns Nej TV, one of the Czech Republic’s leading cable operators, and last year also bought Rio Media, a long established operators, and several smaller cable TV providers in North Bohemia and North Moravia.

Virgin Media opens new multi-million pound headquarters in Reading

By Julian Clover

Virgin Media is opening a brand new headquarters in Reading’s Green Park.

Up to 1,500 staff will be based in the 120,000 square feet office. The first staff moved in earlier this week.

Significant investment has gone into high sustainability standards for the Brook Drive site. Energy efficient lighting is present throughout the building, 10 electric vehicle charging stations are available on site, and all of the building’s electricity comes from 100% renewable sources. Staff are being encouraged to travel to work sustainably by bike, public transport or by arranging lift shares.

“We’ve invested millions of pounds in our new HQ to create a state-of-the-art office and bring more than a thousand jobs to Reading,” said Bill Castell, Acting Chief Financial Officer, Virgin Media. “This new site provides our people with a next-generation work environment to inspire creativity and help Virgin Media to keep growing and give our customers cutting-edge products and services.”

The building is served by more than 150 miles of data cables.

Vodafone and Deutschlandradio settle cable carriage dispute

By JΓΆrn Krieger

The channels of German public radio broadcaster Deutschlandradio will return to the former cable network of Unitymedia in early 2020.

Vodafone Deutschland, which acquired Unitymedia in August 2019, has settled its legal dispute about cable carriage conditions with Deutschlandradio and agreed on a long-term cooperation.

As a result, cable customers will again be able to receive Deutschlandfunk (DLF), Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Deutschlandfunk Nova and – for the first time – add-on channel Dokumente & Debatten in digital (DVB-C). Additionally, Vodafone and Unitymedia households will gain access to catch-up service DLF-Audiothek via the GigaTV (Vodafone) and Horizon (Unitymedia) platforms in the course of next year.

Notably, Deutschlandradio’s channels will no longer be distributed in analogue, although the former Unitymedia cable network continues to offer analogue FM cable radio.

The agreement ends the legal dispute between Unitymedia and Deutschlandradio over carriage fees which the parties have now settled amicably. The question of whether distribution requires a contractual basis and, in particular, payment of carriage fees has been the subject of numerous court proceedings. In recent months, Deutschlandradio had emphasised the legal obligation to offer its channels under the ‘must-carry’ regulation and the need for cost-effectiveness when concluding contracts.

In January 2019, Unitymedia discontinued the distribution of the three Deutschlandradio channels, both in analogue and digital. Deutschlandradio had previously terminated the contract for cable carriage of its channels on the Unitymedia network at the end of 2018. Since then, a follow-up agreement for cable distribution has been negotiated.

As part of the new contract, Deutschlandradio has agreed to pay carriage fees, a Vodafone spokesman confirmed to Broadband TV News. “We have reached a comprehensive and forward-looking agreement that goes beyond the distribution of linear radio channels and also includes the implementation of the DLF-Audiothek and the settlement of the legal disputes,” said the spokesman. “A remuneration has to be paid which, in the overall context of this broad cooperation, takes into account not only the distribution services but also the reconciliation of the legal issues in the past.”

Deutschlandradio also confirmed the payment: “Deutschlandradio has reached an agreement with Vodafone/Unitymedia on the payment of a fee that complies with the principle of economy and cost effectiveness as well as our responsibility towards public licence fee payers. Among other things, it covers linear radio distribution,” a Deutschlandradio spokesman told Broadband TV News.

UPDATE, January 7, 2020: The redistribution of the four Deutschlandradio channels on the former Unitymedia cable network will commence on January 21, 2020, according to Vodafone Deutschland.

Major cable deal in Romania

By Chris Dziadul

RCS&RDS (Digi) has agreed to buy Romania’s largest independent cable operator AKTA (Digital Cable Systems – DCS) in what has been described as a “complex transaction”.

Romania Insider reports it will see Digi, which is the leading provider of cable and fixed-line internet services in the country, use the networks owned by DCS and another smaller player (ATTP Telecommunications) for a period of three years, paying rent of up to €77 million.

During this time, it will provide internet, cable, fixed and mobile services to around 540,000 clients. In the case of ATTP, it will also take over the company’s infrastructure and clients providing it fulfils several conditions.

The deal still has to be approved by Romania’s Competition Council.

DCS is majority owned by the Asian investment fund Pinebridge and Clever Media, which is part of Romania’s Look TV.

Broadband TV News notes that in March this year Digi issued a statement in response to press reports. In it the company said that it had entered into an asset purchase agreement with ATTP to acquire “certain infrastructure components and a limited portfolio of subscribers” in several localities in Romania. These assets were previously owned by AKTA.

It also stressed that this was not a transaction between RCS&RDS (Digi) and the companies in the AKTA/DCS group, as had been erroneously reported.

Insight TV expands footprint in Switzerland

By Robert Briel

Insight TV has launched on Swiss cable operator UPC.

Pascal Amrein, Director Content of UPC “We are delighted to offer Insight TV’s shows to our subscribers. Insight TV’s high-quality content combines epic storytelling and the best talent. This is a great addition to our programming.”

Graeme Stanley, Commercial Director, Insight TV added: “We are very excited about this launch. UPC is the largest cable operator in Switzerland making it the ideal partner to feature our vivid content. This launch demonstrates our commitment to Switzerland and our continued expansion across Europe. With this launch, Insight TV is now available across all major platforms in Switzerland including Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise.”

ANGA becomes broadband association

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German industry association ANGA Verband Deutscher Kabelnetzbetreiber (ANGA Association of German Cable Operators) has changed its name to ANGA Der Breitbandverband (ANGA The Broadband Association).

The decision was made by the ANGA members following a recommendation of the board. With the name change, the association wants to take into account the constantly growing variety of its more than 200 member companies and the diversification of their products and technologies.

“Today, our member companies are active in all segments of the broadband industry. The product portfolio ranges from hybrid cable networks and pure fibre optic networks to IPTV, video streaming and mobile telephony,” said ANGA president Thomas Braun. “Our members come from all enterprise categories active in the broadband market: Family businesses and city network operators as well as broadband subsidiaries of energy suppliers and large telecommunications groups.”

With the name change, ANGA also intendeds to underline its aspiration to have a high-profile presence in all industry-relevant topics. The interdisciplinary teams in Berlin and Cologne and the international congress fair ANGA COM provide the association with ideal conditions to equally address the areas of broadband, media and technology, according to the industry association.

On the internet, ANGA has started using the domains www.breitbandverband.de and www.breitbandverband.com in addition to its traditional presence at www.anga.de.

MuseumTV launches on Ziggo

By Robert Briel

Dutch cabler Ziggo has launched the VOD service Museum TV as an app on its set-top box.

The Dutch Museum TV is a video-on-demand platform that offers mini documentaries of exhibitions and museums throughout the Netherlands. The service has been available online for some time, as well as on KPN’s VOD offer.

In more than 200 mini documentaries, conservators tell about the latest exhibitions and collection presentations. Every month new videos appear on MuseumTV, an initiative of the Foundation Onze Museum. Meanwhile, more than 75 museums are connected to the platform including the Hermitage, the Kröller-Müller Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Drents Museum, the Cobra Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar, the Westfries Museum, the Singer Laren and more.

“This is a very important step in opening up new target groups for our partner museums,” said Marieke van der Donk, founder and director of MuseumTV.

“Ziggo makes it possible for its subscribers to have free access to the rich and varied art and cultural offerings of the Dutch museums and to be encouraged to visit museums.”

“By adding MuseumTV to Ziggo’s offer, we make it easier for our clients to discover art and culture from various museums or to look back at an exhibition they have missed,” added Raymond van der Vliet, Director Content & Programming at Ziggo.

SRG returns on DTT in Switzerland and Austria

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Half a year after DTT switch-off in Switzerland, the channels of public broadcaster SRG can soon be received terrestrially via DVB-T in parts of Switzerland and Austria again.

This is made possible by Austrian cable operator Kabel-TV Lampert, which initiated the DTT return to create the basis for making the popular channels available to its cable customers again.

After DTT switch-off by SRG in June 2019, domestic German-language channels SRF 1 and SRF 2 were no longer available on foreign cable networks, as this was only permitted if the channels could be received terrestrially unencrypted in the border area. On satellite, SRG encrypts its signals to restrict the reach to Swiss citizens. This was therefore no alternative way of reception for cable operators.

Lampert consequently applied for authorisation at Swiss media authority Bakom to use a Swiss DVB-T frequency, reports Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten. This permission enables the company to distribute SRG’s channels unencrypted via a DTT transmitter site on the Hoher Kasten, a 1,800-meter mountain in the Swiss Appenzell Alps. Because the signal also reaches Austria, local cable operators can add SRG’s channels to their networks again.

Bakom was aware of the intention: “The company wanted to continue serving its customers with Swiss channels,” spokesman Francis Meier told the newspaper, adding that they are “very popular” in the surrounding countries. He said that companies from France had also signalled their interest in putting DVB-T transmitters into operation in the Lake Geneva region making use of the same method to bring SRG’s channels back to French cable networks.

Christoph Schmid, head of marketing at Lampert, said that the demand for Swiss channels has been “extremely high” among customers. As in southern Germany, they have always been an integral part of daily television consumption: “They offer added value for cultural exchange and intercultural understanding.”

Because all cable operators in the Austrian Vorarlberg region – the area served by Lampert – benefit from the solution, all of them also share the costs for the DVB-T transmitter in the Appenzell Alps. In the rest of Austria, the SRG channels can’t be received via this solution.

German politicians have also become aware of the possibility. Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter (SPD), member of the German parliament, writes on her website that such private initiatives could also provide a solution for the German border area. “Such a business model could also be interesting for German cable operators serving the South Baden region”, according to Schwarzelühr-Sutter.

The operators do not need an authorisation from public Swiss broadcaster SRG. SRG does, however, take note of these private initiatives, spokesman Edi Estermann told 20 Minuten. “We are pleased about the interest in our offers.”

Vectra enhances TV Everywhere service

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s second largest cable operator Vectra has added HBO, HBO2, HBO3, Cinemax and Cinemax2 to its TV Online service.

Furthermore, it has introduced seven-day catch-up on 47 channels offered on TV Online.

Commenting on the development, Vectra’s CEO Tomasz Zuranski said: Our goal is to have the best TV Everywhere offer on the Polish market. The addition of new channels and functionalities in the Online TV service is to strongly support this goal. We currently offer the richest programming offer among cable operators and a number of functionalities that are to provide our clients with free, modern and intuitive access to the service. And this is just the beginning. We are constantly working on new products and facilities to meet the needs of our clients. At the beginning of next year, our website and mobile application will be enriched with an attractive VOD library”.

TV Online is available to Vectra customers both at home and away from home, throughout the EU.

Those not already receiving the newly added channels on their main service can watch HBO, HBO2, HBO3, HBO OD in VOD and HBO Go for PLN9.99 (€2.33) for the first four months, followed by PLN19.99 a month for subsequent months as part of a 12-month agreement.

The two Cinemax channels cost PLN10 a month together and do not require customers to enter into a contract with Vectra.