Croatian transmission company OiV and Croatia Post (HP) are planning to launch a pay DTT service using the DVB-T2 standard in November.
HP, which won a tender for multiplexes C and E at the end of 2011, is now negotiating with channels. OiV plans a soft launch in September and a commercial launch by the end of 2012. The initial coverage will reach over 82 per cent of total homes, which will be extended to 95 per cent of homes by the end of 2014.
Details of the channel line-up of the planned services remain undisclosed. However due to the use of DVB-T2 technology there may over 20 channels, including HDTV.
Three multiplexes are now in operation in Croatia, broadcasting ten national and over 20 regional channels. Public broadcaster HTV recently launched a cultural channel, HTV 3, and is planning to launch a fourth channel in the near future.
Analogue switch-off took place in Croatia at the end of 2010. The country applied the MPEG-2 compression format, and thanks to relatively low prices for MPEG-2 set top boxes, the transition was smooth. Currently, just under 40 per cent of Croatian homes watch DTT on their primary TV set. DTT penetration has been slightly decreasing over the last two years because of ongoing migration of DTT homes to pay TV platforms, primarily to IPTV.
The DTT offer can become richer as Croatia can launch three more digital TV multiplexes. There are, however, no plans to call a tender for any of them. In fact launching DTT on some frequencies will not be possible as some neighbours of Croatia are planning to switch off analogue terrestrial TV no sooner than in 2014, or 2015 (according to international agreements, analogue signal will be protected until 2015). Also, Croatia has for the moment no plans to upgrade the three multiplexes which launched with MPEG-2 compression.
With the launch of a pay service, Croatia's DTT offer will be very similar to the DTT service in nearby Hungary, where the DTT operator, Antenna Hungaria, provides seven free-to-air channels and two pay packages with a total of 23 pay TV channels. Hungarian pay DTT provider MinDig Extra, launched in May 2010, has gained over 60,000 subscribers, representing over 20 per cent of total DTT primary homes. Its success came however primarily thanks to a comprehensive channel offer and cheap set top boxes.
Overall, the new pay TV service from OiV and HP should certainly help to lower churn on the Croatian DTT platform, although its success will depend on the price of boxes and the channel line-up.