Liberty Global has been the largest pay TV operator in Europe for some time (with assets both in the West and in the East).

However, its top slot in Western Europe is under threat, with Sky Europe [satellite subs only] expected to overtake its subscriber count in 2017, according to a new report from Digital TV Research.

Liberty Global’s subscriber count will fall as the company has to try to convert 8 million analogue cable subs in 2010 to none by 2020 – some of these subs will be lost to other digital platforms. To put it another way, Liberty Global’s analog TV revenues [subscriptions and PPV] in Western Europe in 2010 were $1.5 billion (29% of its total) – but they will fall to nothing by 2020.

Pay TV subscriptions for the 66 operators across 15 countries covered in the Western Europe Pay TV Operator Forecasts report will increase from a collective 82.0 million in 2010 to 93.1 million by 2020. Covering 98 platforms, these operators will continue to represent just under 90% of Western European pay TV subscribers.

Only 36 (55%) of these operators will add to subscribers between 2014 and 2020. Traditional pay TV operators now face greater rivalry than ever before – either from other pay TV platforms such as IPTV or satellite or from “free” multichannel TV services such as DTT and OTT TV and video (such as Netflix).

Spain’s Telefonica will add 2.18 million IPTV subscribers between 2014 and 2020 to take its total to 3.84 million. The UK’s BT and TalkTalk will also gain; climbing by 999,000 and 607,000 IPTV subs respectively.

At the other end of the scale, Germany’s Unitymedia will lose 592,000 cable TV subs, followed by the Netherlands’ UPC (down by 400,000) and Sweden’s Com Hem (down by 390,000 subs). France’s TNT will lose a third of its subs, with Switzerland’s UPC/Cablecom and Finland’s Canal Digital down by a quarter.

Total subscription and VOD revenues for the 66 operators will remain at around $29 billion. These operators account for about 92% of Western European pay TV revenues. Sky Europe [satellite TV subs only] will remain at the top of the revenues league, recording $10.5 billion subscription and VOD revenues by 2020.

Subscription and VOD revenues will fall for 37 of the 66 operators (56%) covered in the Western Europe Pay TV Operator Forecasts report between 2014 and 2020. UPC in the Netherlands will be the biggest winner; increasing revenues by $310 million between 2014 and 2020 as subs convert from analogue to digital. However, France’s CanalSat will lose $229 million as homes convert to fixed/triple-play options.

For more information on the Western Europe Pay TV Operator Forecasts report, please see the Broadband TV News webshop.