Liberty Global tops subs, BSkyB rules revs in European pay-TV

Joseph O'Halloran | 13-11-2013

The recent acquisition spree by Liberty Global has cemented its iron-grip on European pay-TV subscriptions but not revenue leadership says a new market round-up by Digital TV Research.

In its European Pay TV Operator Forecasts report, covering 102 operators across 26 countries— which represented 85% of European pay-TV subscribers by the end of 2012—the analyst predicts that collectively subscriptions covered in a new report from will increase from 131.9 million at the end of 2012 to 147.1 million by 2018.

By far the pay-TV market leader by 2018 will be US media giant Liberty Global which is predicted to have 21.25 million pay-TV subs. At the end of 2012 the company’s current stable of assets in Germany Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Ireland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Belgium and the UK — such as Unity KBW, Telenet and Virgin Media in the UK—totalled 20.968 million subscribers. At teh end of 2012 Liberty boasted more than twice as many subscribers as second-placed BSkyB which had 10.333 million pay-TV subs, edging out Russian DTH player Tricolor on 9.2 million.

However going forward to 2018, the latter will close the gap on Liberty, projected to grow much more quickly to 15.745 million subs. Sky is set to experience slower growth to 10.836 million. Fourth placed Kabel Deutschland’s share is not expected to grow much in six years from 8.14 million to 8/159 million.

Worryingly, Digital TV Research predicts that just over a third (36%) of pay-TV firms will experience subscriber decline between 2012 and 2018. The analyst attributed this to greater competition not only from IPTV, cable and satellite rivals but also from “free” multichannel TV services such as DTT and online TV and video.

Even more alarming, the pay-TV business is expected to plateau after a period of healthy growth. The analyst calculates that total subscription and VOD revenues for the 102 operators—which account for nearly 90% of European pay-TV takings—.increased from $26.8 billion in 2008 to $34.5 billion in 2012 but are set to inch up to $35.1 billion by 2018.

Digital TV Research believes that subscription and VOD revenues will fall for 45 of the 102 operators (44%) covered in this report between 2012 and 2018, including eight of the top ten operators. This number will include market leader BSkyB set to dip from $6.596 billion to $6.529 billion, and Liberty who is set for a slight decline from just over the $5 billion mark to just under.