Market Watch

Bulgaria's Incumbent Telco Joins Satellite TV Bandwagon

September 10, 2010

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Bulgaria's incumbent telco, BTC, has launched a new satellite TV platform, offering 70 channels and the option to bundle TV with Internet, mobile and fixed line telephony. Since 2009 BTC has used the brand Vivacom for all of its services. With the satellite TV service, Vivacom TV, it is primarily targeting its existing Internet and telephony subscribers. The offering also include a pay-per-view service, 'Premium Digital', currently given free to top-tier subscribers. Plans include extending the offer with HD channels and possibly a VoD service. The operator is also planning to launch an IPTV platform by the end of this year. In April 2010, 50 per cent of BTC's radio and TV broadcasting services division was sold to investment group, Mancelord Limited. Parent BTC is 90 per cent owned by AIG Capital Partners.

Although nearly every incumbent telco in CEE has already launched an IPTV service, many are now seeing satellite as a more cost effective way to reach a larger area of the country quickly. The region already boasts satellie services operated by TP SA in Poland, T-Home in Hungary, Dolce from Romania's Romtelecom, and Slovak Telecom's MagioSat. Russia's telco Svyazinvest, which is actively rolling out IPTV service, is also intending to buy a satellite platform Orion-Express.

The results show that such satellite platforms can be very successful, even in markets with relatively high multichannel penetration and a number of existing satellite players. Having an existing Internet and telephony subscriber base gives telcos the advantage over the other satellite players, which very rarely provide triple-play services. In Bulgaria there are already two satellite platforms: Bulsatcom and Total TV. Multichannel penetration stands at about 65 per cent of homes. With DTT still absent in the country (although expected to be launched by Towercom soon) the new Vivacom satellite TV service is likely to find success provided the economic downturn is reversed within a reasonable time frame.

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