Bulgarian pay-TV: the way forward

October 2, 2013 09.30 Europe/London By Chris Dziadul

BlizooConsolidation in the Bulgarian pay-TV market is a foregone conclusion, with the market likely to reach West European levels in terms of business models and competition within the next 3-5 years.

The assessment, offered in a personal rather than institutional capacity, was given by Dimitar Radev, president of the Bulgarian Association of Cable Communication Operators (BACCO).

Speaking at the Sofia Business Briefly, jointly organised by Broadband TV News and Telenor Satellite Broadcasting, he added that despite challenges in the pay-TV and broadband sectors, including having some of the richest content offers/fastest broadband speeds despite the lowest ARPUs in the EU, there were significant opportunities to explore in Bulgaria.

ASO, for instance, is fuelling further adoption of digital pay-TV.

The digital switchover, which was completed on September 30, was nevertheless one of the more controversial subjects discussed at the briefing.

It has reportedly left hundreds of thousands of households with blank screens and is likely to benefit the take-up of DTH, cable and IPTV services in the country.

Also speaking at the briefing, Didier Stoessel, vice chairman of Nova TV’s board of directors, said the MTG-backed broadcaster is now the leading internet and online provider in Bulgaria.

Leiv Svenning, head of CEE, Telenor Satellite Broadcasting, meanwhile provided insights into his company’s strategy in the region, including Bulgaria, and Neven Dilkov, MD Neterra, spoke about its white-label platform, operated in partnership with Telenor.

Boyko Vassilev Petrov, chief editor, current affairs at BTN, described the financially-challenged public broadcaster’s strategy, which includes multimedia and a migration to HD, while Stefan Lager, general manager of Zentario and VP sales of Zentario Group, described his company’s activities.

Bulgaria’s digital TV market is dominated by the DTH platform Bulsatcom; cable operator Blizoo, which some reports say is up for sale; and DTH platform Vivacom TV, operated by the incumbent telco Vivacom (BTC).

Together, they have around 1.5 million subscribers.

Also present in the marketplace is M-Tel, which is backed by Telekom Austria and has an IPTV service.

Representing Telekom Austria at the briefing, Stanislav Georgiev, said that satellite TV represents the next level of convergence.