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Yesterday β€” January 16th 2019Broadband TV News: Cable

Vestel launches TVs with integrated pay-TV access

By Robert Briel

Vestel has launched the first TVs which allow consumers to access premium pay TV services directly through their TVs without the need for a separate set-top box, CI CAM or any other external device.

Vestel’s 43” UHD CASTV will be available in Croatia under the JVC brand, offering content from local Croatian DTT pay TV operator EVOTV.

The launch has been enabled by Irdeto and Vestel’s partnership to implement Irdeto’s TV Cloaked CA solution. This allows the secure delivery of premium content direct to Vestel’s 4K TVs. The new JVC UHD CASTVs can directly receive broadcast DVB Satellite, cable or terrestrial content with pay TV protection, through integrated tuners and demodulators.

“The launch of the JVC CASTVs addresses a market need in providing more cost-effective content delivery choices for pay TV operators while also drastically reducing subscriber acquisition costs, with no hardware subsidy required,” said Hakan Kutlu, VP of Marketing and Product Management, Vestel.

“The partnership with Irdeto has enabled this launch as Irdeto TV Cloaked CA ensures that we can give a great experience for our customers, providing easy and secure access to premium pay TV content directly through the TV.”

“This partnership, and subsequent launch of JVC UHD CASTVs, is a real innovation in the industry,” said Steeve Huin, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Irdeto.

“With no need for a separate STB or CI CAM module, consumers can have easier access to services, making new subscriber acquisition seamless for operators. All the while, Irdeto TV Cloaked CA provides premium software security to protect high value content.”

“We’re focused on offering our customers a great experience in all stages of the customer lifecycle and with the JVC CASTV product, customers can easily start enjoying our DTT and OTT services immediately after product installation,” said Domagoj Frank, CEO at EVOTV.

“The new JVC CASTVs allow consumers to watch pay TV straight out of the box and will help us to reach new customers through retail sales channels. We will continue to make our content and services as easily accessible as possible, with the highest levels of content security.”

In the coming months, Vestel plans to release CASTVs in 49” and 55” screens as well as launching in new markets including Germany, Austria and Uzbekistan.

Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Cable

Unitymedia to change cable line-up / New carriage fee dispute

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German cable operator Unitymedia will perform several changes to its TV and radio line-up including a controversial move on January 22, 2019.

Regional channel Radio Bremen TV HD and educational channel ARD-alpha HD will join Unitymedia’s cable network, the two last channels from public broadcaster ARD launching in HD quality.

In federal state Baden-Württemberg, financial news channel CNBC will be added to the line-up.

The Deutschlandfunk radio channels operated by national public German broadcaster Deutschlandradio will be removed from the cable network at the same time. According to a Unitymedia spokesman, Deutschlandradio cancelled its carriage contract with Unitymedia effective December 31, 2018 and declined the cable company’s offer to enter negotiations regarding a new distribution agreement. He stressed that Unitymedia would be prepared to conclude a new contract any time if the broadcaster was interested in gaining cable carriage again.

Broadband TV News understands that the contract cancellation is based on a dispute regarding carriage fees. The removal of Deutschlandradio’s channels could, however, be legally problematic as the broadcaster is financed by the public licence fee and has a public service obligation from which must-carry status could be derived.

As a result, Deutschlandradio could legally challenge the exclusion from Unitymedia’s cable network and demand the channels’ reintroduction.

“We take note of Unitymedia’s unilateral announcement on January 14, 2019 to remove Deutschlandradio’s channels from its cable network in Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and North-Rhine Westphalia on January 22, 2019,” a Deutschlandradio spokesman told Broadband TV News. “We regret this step and are currently evaluating how to proceed. The three Deutschlandradio channels remain available in digital via DAB+, internet and satellite while Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandfunk Kultur additionally stay available via FM in many regions.”

Ultra HD first in Belarus

By Chris Dziadul

Cosmos Telekom has become the first cable operator in Belarus to offer its subscribers Ultra HD content.

In a statement, it says it has added the channel Ultra 4K Extreme to its line up, with the service being included in the Basic and Combo packages for no additional charge.

Cosmos Telekom is one of the top three leading telcos in Belarus and its offer includes cable and MMDS TV services, as well as high-speed internet.

It is 50% owned, and works closely with, Russia’s Akado Group.

Zegona secures Euskaltel funding

By Chris Dziadul

Zegona Communications has confirmed financing arrangements to increase its investment in the Spanish cable operator Euskaltel.

In a statement, it says it has announced a proposed placing of at least 95,238.096 ordinary shares to raise at least £100 million.

It has also entered into loan agreements with the Virgin Group and Barcalys Bank under which it can draw up to £30 million. It now intends to use this funding to increase its ownership in Euskaltel and to work with its board and management to improve the performance of the business.

Zegona has also entered into a shareholder agreement with Talomon Capital Limited, which is a shareholder in both Zegona and Euskaltel.

Talomon currently holds around 1.4% in Eusklatel and under the share agreement will be entitled to own up to 2.4%.

Poland launches cable access consultation

By Chris Dziadul

The Polish Office of Electronic Communications (UKE) has initiated a consultation into specifying conditions that ensure access to the infrastructure of country’s leading cable operators.

In a statement, it identifies the operators as Netia, UPC Polska, Multimedia Polska, Vectra Investments, Inea and Toya. It adds that the conditions for ensuring access to telecom cables in multi-dwelling buildings “constitute a universal set of rules and principles when applying for access to telecommunications cables”.

UKE continues: “The proposed regulation is designed to meet the needs of telecommunications undertakings, while not interfering with the operation of infrastructure operators. The consultation also covers a tool which will be used by telecommunications undertakings to determine access fees.

“The consulted draft decisions pursue the Strategic lines of actions of the President of UKE for 2017-2021. The intention of the regulator is to promote co-investments, support the development and sharing of infrastructure as well as to ensure efficient cooperation among operators. The drafts, preceded by an analysis of the terms of cooperation and a workshop with market players, implement the concepts of the Digital Agenda for Europe and Europe 2020 strategy. They also execute the concepts of the Framework Directive and the Telecommunications Act. Symmetric access to infrastructure is also one of the assumptions of the European Electronic Communications Code adopted last year”.

UKE concludes by asking for “precise and constructive comments supported by relevant arguments”.

It also does not rule out the possibility of conducting a second round of consultations.

Orange eyes Spain’s Euskaltel

By Chris Dziadul

Orange has identified the Spanish regional cable operator Euskaltel as a possible take-over target.

According to El Economista, citing several sources, its interest could increase in the coming months, adding that relations between the two companies are already “excellent”.

Indeed, Orange already provides access to its mobile network to Euskaltel (Basque Country), R (Galicia) and Telecable (Asturia), the three companies that make up the Euskaltel group.

El Economista says that the nature of Euskaltel’s shareholdings suggests its owners would be open to talks with possible investors providing certain assets or investments in the Basque community are protected.

Its majority shareholder Kutxabank currently holds a 21.32% stake in the company and has been actively selling shares in recent months.

At the same time, the UK fund Zegona, a 15% shareholder, had to withdraw its offer to take over Euskaltel last month after realising that 75% of Zegona’s shareholders were not interested in selling to it.

This has potentially opened the door to (amongst others) Orange.

It has been present in Spain for 20 years and is the French group’s largest business outside its home market.

Telekom Srbija receives Bosnian deal approval

By Chris Dziadul

The Council of Competition of Bosnia & Herzegovina has approved the sale of the Banja Luka-based cable operator Blicnet to Telekom Srpske (M-Tel), a subsidiary of Telekom Srbija.

According to Capital, it has done so despite the objections of Telemach, based in Sarajevo.

Blicnet is one of the leading providers of triple-play services in the country and has until now been owned by Telekom Slovenije.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, news of the sale was first announced in October 2018.

Ownership change at Romania’s Akta

By Chris Dziadul

The investment fund Pinebridge is reported to have sold some of its shares in the leading Romanian cable operator Akta.

Quoting industry sources, Ziarul Financiar says that the buyer is Clever Media, part of the Look TV group, which is controlled by the Cluj-based entrepreneur Adrian Tomsa.

It adds that Akta had 600,000 subscribers and a turnover of around €50 million in 2017.

Meanwhile, Look TV holds the broadcasting rights to the Champions League, Romanian Football League and a number of leading football leagues in Western Europe.

It offers coverage of the competitions both directly through 10 proprietary and other TV channels.

Broadband TV News notes that there has been no official confirmation of the sale from Pinebridge. However, as previously reported, it has been seeking a buyer for its majority stake in Akta for the last few years.

Telekom Srbija expansion continues

By Chris Dziadul

The Serbian incumbent Telekom Srbija has acquired the cable operators Radijus vector and AVcom for an undisclosed fee.

Furthermore, according to Vladimir Lucic, the group’s internet and multimedia coordinator and director of Mtel, quoted by b92 in an interview with Blic, it is negotiating to buy five more, smaller operators, with the deals expected to be concluded in the first quarter of this year.

Lucic added that the acquisitions are part of Telekom Srbija’s ‘million plus’ strategy, the aim of which is for the telco to reach over 1 million TV and internet customers.

The two new acquisitions have seen Telekom Srbija add 120,000 TV and internet subscribers in the case of Radijus vector and 18,000 from AVcom to its total.

Lucic stressed that the telco had used its own rather than public funds for the acquisitions.

Furthermore, it had increased its TV subscriber total in Serbia by over 50% in five months to 700,000+, thereby giving it the ability to invest in content and launch the Superstar channel.

VodafoneZiggo publishes reference offer Wholesale Fixed Access

By Robert Briel

VodafoneZiggo has published its reference offer Wholesale Fixed Access, reports Telecompaper.

VodafoneZiggo chose not to publish a press release at this time. In an explanation to Telecompaper, the company confirmed that potential partners have been informed.

The publication is in accordance with the obligation that the Dutch Consumer & Market Authority (ACM) imposed on 27 September 2018. This may lead in time to a new category of competitors on the Dutch market that are able to make use of this wholesale offer using third party access. Rates have not yet been set and will follow in January.

At this moment it is not yet possible to say whether and when wholesale partners can launch commercially. In the past, Tele2 and YouCa have expressed interest inhaling use of open cable regulation.

The offer is the result of the market analysis of the ACM for the coming years, in which it concluded that KPN and VodafoneZiggo have joint dominance. This resulted in the WFA regulation of 27 September.

Major carriage deal in Ukraine

By Chris Dziadul

The Ukrainian group 1+1 Media and country’s leading cable operator Volia have signed a distribution agreement for 2019.

Under its terms, Volia will be able to offer all 22 TV channels in the 1+1 Media distribution portfolio from the beginning of the year.

In addition, 1+1 Media will grant Volia the right to broadcast 400 hours of its premium content on the operator’s VOD platform.

1+1 Media’s portfolio includes MTV Live HD, MTV Europe, MTV Dance, MTV Hits, MTV Rock, VH1 Classic and VH1 European, which it distributes in an exclusive basis in Ukraine.

Telenet takes over Etterbeek’s cable network

By Robert Briel

Following the launch of an invitation to tender, the municipality of Etterbeek has sold its cable network to Telenet.

This takeover has made Telenet the owner of a cable network whose operator had already been offering telecommunications services since 1997.

Telenet has been offering telecommunications services (TV, internet, fixed telephony) since 1997 in the municipality of Etterbeek through a contract with the municipality. This has allowed Telenet to use its cable network (HFC – or hybrid fibre coaxial – network) for an annual fee, and to carry out any maintenance and extension of the network as a subcontractor of the municipality. As the contract will end on 31 December 2018, the municipality of Etterbeek has decided to sell this network.

Consequently, Telenet felt it should seize this opportunity to become the owner of the Etterbeek network as this would give it more end-to-end control over its current and future quality, as is the case in other municipalities in Brussels where it is already present, and thus better serve its customers. This also fits in with the company’s investment strategy in Brussels. With this extra investment, Telenet will indeed be the owner of all the cable infrastructures it operates on in Brussels.

The transaction was carried out on Thursday, December 27 after being approved by the Etterbeek Municipal Council last October. The takeover will have no effect on the situation of the customers, continuity is ensured.

More on demand from Volia

By Chris Dziadul

Ukraine’s leading cable operator Volia has launched a new SVOD service named Volia Football+.

According to the company, it allows viewers to watch all live and recorded games from the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League 24/7 and without ads. It also includes brief reviews and highlights and can be watched without hearing the voices of commentators.

Volia Football+ can be viewed both on TV screens and mobile devices and in terms of functionality is similar to Volia Cinema, which gives online viewers access to 1,000 of the best films and TV shows.

Volia Football+ is available to basic IPTV users and has been made possible due to the cable operator’s partnership with the Media Group Ukraine (MGU) TV channels Futbol 1 and Futbol 2.

Poland’s Inea ups the ante

By Chris Dziadul

The Polish cable operator Inea will launch a fibre service offering download speeds of up to 1Gbps, and without the need for a contract, on January 11.

In a statement, it says that the launch will coincide with the premier of the animation movie Ralph Demolka on the internet and the promotion is valid from December 17 in all Inea sales outlets.

Michal Bartowiak, COO of Inea, pointed out that earlier this year it also launched a 10Gbps service for its clients.

Inea is the leading cable operator in the Wielkopolska region of Western Poland.

Gigabit internet available to 10 million households in Germany

By JΓΆrn Krieger

The upgrade of German broadband networks to Gigabit speeds has exceeded the mark of 10 million lines at the end of the year.

Of these, 7.3 million lines are realised via fibre-optic cable networks (HFC), according to German cable operator association ANGA. 3.4 million households are covered by pure fibre optic networks (FTTB/H).

The market driver is Vodafone whose cable network can currently provide 6 million households with 1Gbps internet access, corresponding with around half of its total cable network.

The network operators represented by ANGA plan to supply three out of four households with Gigabit speeds by 2025. Additionally, hundreds of industrial areas and schools will be served.

Unitymedia adds catch-up and restart TV from ARD/ZDF

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German cable operator Unitymedia has made the catch-up TV services from public broadcasters ARD and ZDF available as apps on its Horizon set-top box.

Additionally, the restart TV function has been implemented for all of the public broadcasters’ channels, enabling viewers to set back the programmes and watch them from the beginning.

The restart TV function can, thus, not only be used on more then 40 pay-TV channels, but also on all public TV channels in SD and HD resolution.

770,000 of the more than 6 million Unitymedia customers have opted for the Horizon box, corresponding with 12% of all TV customers. The new offers are provided to customers free of charge.

FRK welcomes full EC review of Vodafone/Liberty deal

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German cable operator association FRK welcomes the decision by the European Commission (EC) to launch an in-depth investigation into Vodafone’s proposed acquisition of Liberty Global’s German subsidiary Unitymedia.

“The intended merger prevents potential competition between the two companies. In order to grow, both companies would have to penetrate each other’s territories. The prevention of this move alone is anti-competitive,” said FRK chairman Heinz-Peter Labonte.

“In our view, there are also several other negative effects, for example on the wholesale market in the housing industry, on infrastructure competition in the deployment of fibre-optic networks and on competition for TV rights, which justify strict conditions or even a prohibition of the move,” added Labonte.

“Of course, we would have welcomed it if the case had ended up with the German antitrust authorities. They are much more familiar with the situation, the German market and the considerable negative effects of approval,” said Labonte. “On the other hand, the now initiated in-depth investigation in Brussels shows that the Commission’s competition regulators also have considerable concerns.”

European Commission opens full deal review of Vodafone, Liberty acquisition

By By Robert Briel and JΓΆrn Krieger

The European Commission (EC) has concerns about Vodafone’s proposed acquisition of Liberty Global’s subsidiaries in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania and has therefore opened an in-depth investigation.

The Brussels-based authority is concerned that the takeover announced in May 2018 could reduce competition in Germany and the Czech Republic.

“It’s important that all EU consumers have access to affordable and good quality telephone and TV services,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy. Vestager added that the in-depth investigation aims to ensure that the transaction will not lead to higher prices, less choice and reduced innovation in telecommunications and TV services for consumers.

In Germany, Vodafone and Liberty Global operate non-overlapping coaxial cable networks covering different areas and regions. In the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, Vodafone is mainly active as a mobile network operator, and Liberty Global as a fixed-line telecommunications provider.

In Germany, the Commission has concerns that the transaction would eliminate competition between the merging companies in the fixed-line and TV market, reduce the number of players and limit the merged entity’s incentives to compete effectively with the remaining operators, both in areas already served by Liberty Global’s German subsidiary Unitymedia and in Germany as a whole. The transaction could also eliminate competition between the merging companies in terms of investment in next generation networks and substantially increase the negotiation power of the merged entity in negotiations with TV broadcasters.

In the Czech Republic, the deal could shut some rivals out of the local telecommunications market, the EC says. The authority has not identified any specific competition concerns relating to the proposed merger in the Hungarian and Romanian markets.

In the in-depth investigation, the Commission wants to determine whether its initial competition concerns are confirmed.

The transaction was notified to the Commission on October 19, 2018. The Federal German Cartel Office requested a referral of the case to the German competition authority on November 7, 2018. This request is still pending, according to the EC.

The Commission now has 90 working days, until May 2, 2019, to take a decision.

The takeover plans encountered strong opposition in the German telecommunications industry. Deutsche Telekom and Tele Columbus called for the deal to be blocked because of its negative impact on competition. Cable operator association FRK demanded strong conditions, for example the opening of the merged entity’s networks to third parties (open access).

Liberty Global still expects the transaction to be approved by the Commission in mid-2019. “We always anticipated a second phase review given the size and scope of the transaction,” CEO Mike Fries said in a statement. “We look forward to engaging with the Commission and continue to expect approval mid-2019.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Cartel Office expects that the case will remain in Brussels, although the Commission said that it is still examining the request by the German authority to take over the case. “Due to the initiation of the second phase, we assume that the Commission will not refer the proceedings to Germany,” Andreas Mundt, President of the Cartel Office told German news agency dpa. “We will contribute our technical expertise and our assessment of the competitive conditions in the German cable and mobile communications markets to the investigation.”

Deutsche Telekom welcomes the initiation of the extended investigation. “The decision to open an in-depth investigation comes as no surprise given the massive impact the merger would have on the affected infrastructure and TV markets in Germany. We expect that the EU Commission will now carefully investigate and analyse the deal’s effects on competition and consumers in Germany,” a Telekom spokesman told Broadband TV News.

Telefónica Deutschland is also calling for the Commission to examine the case rigorously and is counting on Vodafone to make concessions in the further course of the case. “The competitive impact of the transaction on consumers and broadband deployment in Germany would be serious and therefore requires in-depth investigation,” a Telefónica Deutschland spokesman told Broadband TV News. “Telefónica Deutschland welcomes the European Commission’s decision and calls on the Commission to carefully analyse the effects on the telecommunications market,” said the spokesman, adding that the company expects from Vodafone “to make every effort to counter these negative effects in the further course of the procedure”.

Horizon Go on Android TV in Slovakia

By Chris Dziadul

UPC Broadband Slovakia has made Horizon Go available to its subscribers on Android TV.

As they result, they can now watch almost 150 TV channels, of which 60 are in HD, as well as use 7-Day Replay TV and the online MyPrime video library either directly through a TV with a built-in Android operating system or via a connected multimedia device, the Android TV box.

All customers of UPC digital TV get Horizon Go mobile TV at no additional cost within their pre-paid package.

Commenting on the development, Clemens Kruse, CCO, UPC Broadband Slovakia, said: “UPC, as one of the leading providers of innovative digital TV, internet and telephone services in Slovakia, registers a constantly growing interest of customers in applications such as Android TV. With this innovation, we respond to the real needs of our customers and continue to make watching TV even more enjoyable and easier for them. Applications make it easy to use mobile TV services such as Horizon Go, which offers a number of innovative and interactive services, such as the 7-Day Replay TV or video library with over 2,000 movie and series titles”.

IPTV shines in Moldova

By Chris Dziadul

IPTV continues to grow in Moldova’s otherwise shrinking pay-TV market.

The latest stats published by the regulator ANRCETI show that the number of IPTV subscribers rose by about 10% in the first nine months of this year to reach 153,400. At the same time, IPTV revenues in the first nine months were, at MDL56.5 million (€2.9 million), 2% higher than in the corresponding period in 2017.

Meanwhile, the number of cable TV subscribers fell by 10.6% to about 164,700, and sales were 2.8% lower at MDL62.6 million.

All told, the number of pay-TV subscribers in the country fell by 1.6% in the first nine months of this year to 318,600.

Furthermore, pay-TV sales fell by 0.6% to MDL119.1 million and ARPU by 8.2% to MDL41.

In the case of digital subscribers the majority (68.5%) opted for IPTV, with the remainder (31.5%) choosing cable. Just over three in five (61.8%) of pay-TV subscribers were digital and the remainder (38.2%) analogue.

Moldtelecom (34.4%) was the leading provider of pay-TV services, followed by Sun Communications (20.5%) and TV Box (12.7%), with other having a combined market share of 32.4%.