Three years after launch of its DTT platform Poland has completed the process of analogue switch-off (ASO). In the last stage of the process, which started in the last quarter of 2012, analogue terrestrial broadcast was terminated in four regions of the country and the cities of Gizycko, Jelenia Gora, Ostroleka, and Lezajsk. The remaining areas represented about five per cent of total homes.
Currently three multiplexes, operated by Poland's transmission company Emitel, cover each nearly 100 per cent of households, broadcasting 22 free to air channels in total, including public TV channels, TVP 1 and TVP 2, in SD and HD.
Four more free to air channels will be launched by the end of April 2014 on multiplex 1, replacing the public channels (one in HD and two in SD), now also available on TVP-dedicated multiplex 3. The National Broadcasting Council has recently awarded two stations with DTT licences and is planning to grant the last two licences by the beginning of August 2013.
In addition to free-to-air DTT channels, there is also a pay DTT platform in Poland provided by Cyfrowy Polsat ( the country's largest satellite TV player). The operator, which acquired in 2010 a DVB-H licence holder, Info-Media-FM, launched in 2012 eight pay TV channels, making them available on its mobile devices, as well as on DVB-T (the company provides its own hardware enabling access to both the pay and free channels). As of July 2013 its pay DTT network is available in the 31 largest cities in Poland and their vicinities, covering 5m homes (about 12 per cent of total).
Launch of DTT in Poland was considerably delayed, which gave other platforms, primarily satellite TV, an opportunity to grow under much less competition, especially in the rural areas where satellite had to face practically no competitors.
In July 2013 according to IHS, pay TV penetration in Poland reached about 80 per cent of households. Satellite pay TV, being the country's largest platform, is watched by nearly 50 per cent of homes, whereas DTT has a penetration of just over 10 per cent of total households.
Four new free-to-air channels to be launched on multiplex 1 will add some missing genres to the free offer, primarily films, documentary and children's (by the decision of the broadcasting council the last will be a channel currently prepared by public broadcaster, TVP ABC). It is likely that, due to the cost of transmission, TVP will free the capacity on multiplex 1 before April 2014.
The free-to-air offer is complemented by pay channels from Cyfrowy Polsat, finding a certain niche potential for growth in the market close to saturation. It is not impossible that more multiplexes will launch in the future, possibly dedicated for pay TV services, however, at the moment, with an ongoing public discussion regarding 'digital dividend', no plans are yet ready.
Surprisingly the whole transition to digital terrestrial TV in Poland has been done without providing government subsidies for low income families. Although the prices of DTT set top boxes in Poland start from about €20, a certain number of homes may still find it difficult to cope with it.
Poland is one of the last Eastern European EU countries to switch off analogue terrestrial signals. Out of the three remaining: Bulgaria plans to complete ASO by the end of September 2013, and Hungary is finishing the first stage of ASO by the end of July 2013, with the completion deadline set for 2014. Romania has just published its strategy for transition to digital with the ASO deadline set for mid 2015.