Beam me down

Satellite operators are treating Central and Eastern Europe as an increasingly important market for their activities.

That was certainly the message that came across at this year’s IBC, where Eutelsat, SES Astra, Telenor, Spacecom and Hellas Sat all had a strong presence.

In a seminar organised by SES Astra, the company admitted that it had all but neglected the region for two decades whilst focusing its activities on Western Europe. However, all that changed some 3-4 years ago and it has since enjoyed considerable success despite the recent loss of UPC Direct, one of its key clients.

One of those that remains – Skylink, the pre-pay DTH platform that serves the Czech Republic and Slovakia – nevertheless goes from strength to strength. Jaromir Glisnik, the CEO of Ostrava-based TradeTec, its joint operator, revealed that the service now has a combined total of 1.2 million customers in the two countries. What is more, it has recently been growing at an unprecedented rate, selling a record 80,000 cards in the month following a clampdown on piracy by the rival platform Digi TV in August.

Another interesting statistic he revealed was that between 15-17% of Skylink’s customers now opt for some form of pay-TV.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia are undoubtedly SES Astra’s key markets in the CEE region, where they also provide services to – amongst others – the Czech/Slovak DTH platform CS Link and Poland’s TVP. However, it also has a number of clients in the Baltic Republics, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria and Romania, which it covers via the 5 degrees East orbital slot.

What is more, its coverage of Russia and the CIS will be considerably strengthened from mid-2013 onwards, when it starts to employ the 31.5 degrees East position.

Hellas Sat meanwhile has ambitious plans for the CEE region, where it is employed by Bulgaria’s Bulsatcom and Romania’s Dolce (Romtelecom). The OTE-back company aims to launch a second satellite at a still-to-be-announced date to meet increasing demand from its clients.

OTE is also expected to launch a DTH platform serving its home market, Greece, at the end of this year.

Israel’s Spacecom, which operates the Amos series of satellites, is even more ambitious and aims to become a global player within the next five years. Within CEE, it sees itself as already one of the leading players and certainly on a par with Eutelsat, having been present in some markets for over 10 years. Its clients in the region include HBO Central Europe, Magio (Slovakia), T-Home (Hungary) and Inter and 1+1 (Ukraine).

September 17, 2010