Half full, not half empty

By Chris Dziadul | February 26, 2009 | 06:25 UK

Times are hard, but let’s not get too carried away by the latest results issued by some companies.

Take Liberty Global and CME, two of the leading investors in the region’s TV industry. While the former’s financials, especially in the last quarter, were nothing to write home about, its overall performance in 2008 was impressive and looks set to continue that way this year.

The litmus test for Liberty Global is its digital TV operations; the rollouts in Poland and Hungary have been a success, while the one in the Czech Republic has gone so well UPC may well have migrated all its analogue cable subscribers to digital by the end of this year.

Romania, too, has been a success story, and earlier this week the company revealed that it would increase its investment in the country by around a quarter this year, upgrading its networks and introducing HD services.

Liberty Global’s DTH operations in the region have meanwhile taken something of a drubbing in the last couple of years, initially from the RCS/RDS operation Digi TV and more recently the Czech/Slovak pre-pay service Sky Link. However, the Q4 2008 results show that they are holding their own, gaining (albeit slowly) rather than losing customers.

CME, too, has posted financial results that leave something to be desired. However, while the last quarter was difficult, revenues for 2008 as a whole in all its markets, with the exception of the Studio 1+1 division in Ukraine and Bulgaria (a recent acquisition), were higher than a year earlier.

While 2009 will undoubtedly be a challenging year for CME, the company is extremely well placed in all its markets and will continue to play a leading role, especially in countries such as the Czech Republic, as they continue their transition to digital broadcasting.

Elsewhere, we have seen good figures from Poland’s TVN group, which posted significant subscriber growth for both its new generation DTH platform n and pre-pay service TNK in the last quarter.

What is more, Hungary’s Magyar Telekom has finally begun to do something right in the digital TV sector in its home market, gaining significant numbers of subscribers in the last quarter for both its existing (and hitherto poorly performing) IPTV service and new DTH platform.

2009 will undoubtedly be a difficult year for the industry, and in 2-3 months time we will no doubt be reflecting on a challenging first quarter. However, the fundamentals of CEE’s TV industry are sound and it is – and will remain – well placed to ride out the current global financial crisis.