On the mend

By Chris Dziadul
April 22, 2010 14.44 UK

Is the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe finally starting to recover from the global economic crisis? If recent evidence is anything to go by, the answer is probably a qualified yes.

Certainly in Russia, the pay-TV market, driven by such star performers as the DTH platform Tricolor, went through last year relatively unscathed and is now looking to the future with justified confidence. There are also signs the country’s TV ad market is growing once again after a disastrous 2009.

Meanwhile in Poland, TVN has been boosted by the performance of the DTH platforms n and TNK, which have just posted year-on-year increases in take-up of 33% and 140% respectively in Q1 this year. The incumbent telco TP and its Lithuanian counterpart TEO LT have also just reported significant increases in the TV subscriber numbers in the first quarter.

On the other hand, CME, one of the region’s leading commercial TV operators, had a year to forget in 2009, posting a net loss of €72.5 million. It has nevertheless since restructured its operations, disposing of TV assets in Ukraine and buying up ones in Bulgaria, and is confident of turning the corner this year.

Although MTG has not been as hard hit as its rival, it, too, has suffered from the effects of the economic crisis. Just published Q1 figures show that the both the net sales and operating income of its pay-TV operations in the Baltic Republics and Ukraine were 1% down on last year.

Net sales in its Free TV Emerging Markets portfolio, which includes the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, were also down (7%), and though the size of the loss improved by 11%, it still amounted to €6.9 million.

However, like CME, MTG is not taking things lying down. Most recently, it entered the Russian satellite TV market by buying into Raduga, which ended Q1 with 83,000 subscribers and has considerable scope for growth.

While we are certainly not out of the woods, the first signs of a recovery are already in there to be seen throughout the region. They should become more evident as the year continues.