The enigma

January 15, 2010

What on earth has happened to the Polish public broadcaster TVPís DTH platform, launched amid great fanfare only last September?

The statement from SES ASTRA about its long-term agreement with TVP has been checked and confirmed by Broadband TV News and is unambiguous as to the satellite operatorís position on the issue. Where it does raise doubts, however, are as to TVP and where it now stands, both with SES ASTRA and the DTH platform.

TVP is a long-term customer of SES ASTRA, and though there were some question marks as to whether or not it would remain with the Luxembourg-based company for its new platform or opt a competitor such as Eutelsat, these eventually proved unfounded.

However, the platform was launched in difficult circumstances, with Piotr Farfal, the then head of TVP and a strong advocate of the service, fighting to retain his position at the station. When he was eventually forced out, his successors (there have since been more than one) have effectively mothballed the project.

The real blow to the TVP platform, and one that took the entire Polish TV industry by surprise, was the decision by Farfalís successors to re-encrypt the still limited number channels on the platform, less than a month after it had been launched as a FTA service.

Had the original business plan been followed, the platform would now be offering even more FTA channels and be preparing to introduce pay channels on an a la carte basis. In the event, the project seems to have disappeared from sight, with the latest information on it being almost impossible to even track down on TVPís own site.

All this comes at a time when satellite TV is really in the ascendancy throughout the CEE region. Only this week there has been positive news about both CS Link, which has reported over 500,000 cards sold in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Ukraineís MYtv, which has switched to the new Thor 6 satellite.

There may still be a future for TVPís DTH platform, but its prospects look bleaker by the day the longer the current situation continues.