Market Watch

Telekom Austria Acquires Croatia's Largest Cable TV Player


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Austria's incumbent telco, Telekom Austria (TAG) has bought Croatia's largest cable TV provider, B.Net. TAG paid Austrian energy company BEWAG $93m to acquire B.net via its Croatian subsidiary, Vipnet, a company providing mobile telephony and mobile internet.

With over 100,000 TV subscribers, B.net accounts for over 70 per cent of Croatian cable TV. The operator provides triple-play services, including digital TV, across the country.

In Austria TAG offers an IPTV service, aon TV, which at the end of the first quarter 2011 had 165,000 TV subscribers. It also has an IPTV platform in Bulgaria, and telecoms interests in Bulgaria, Belarus, Serbia, Slovenia and Macedonia.

Analysis
Croatia is one of four countries in Central and Eastern Europe where analogue switch-off has already taken place (December 2010). Pay TV penetration, however, is relatively low, reaching about 40 per cent of homes at the end of March. Free DTT reaches about 35 per cent of homes with free satellite is in 20 per cent.

The pay TV leader is Deutsche Telekom-owned Hrvatski Telekom, which offers an IPTV service called MaxTV, MaxTV Sat (launched last year) and some cable TV services. At the end of March 2010, HT reported 299,000 residential TV subscribers.

In order to improve its competitiveness against IPTV, B.net may need to extend its TV service reach. The company may actually follow Max TV by launching a satellite service. Many other incumbent telcos in CEE have combined IPTV with satellite: TP SA, Romtelecom, DT-owned Slovak Telekom and T-Home. Instead of launching a new platform, B.net could also acquire Total TV, with which it is currently co-operating. After a recent franchise deal, B.net has taken over the distribution of Total TV in Croatia.

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