RTL has won a 15-year DTT licence in Croatia for launch of a national kids' channel, RTL Kockica. The win came as the Croatian broadcasting council, AEM, concluded a tender for new DTT channels. The regulator also extended the licence for RTL flagship channel, RTL TV, broadcasting on multiplex A. Others were not so lucky. The regulator decided not to grant a licence for a new channel on multiplex B, as none of the four candidates fulfilled the conditions of the tender. Another bid for this licence will be called in the near future.
The licences for RTL channel cost each Kun450,000 (around €60,000) a year. Currently there are three free-to-air multiplexes in Croatia broadcasting a total of 10 national channels. There is also a pay DTT service, evoTV, from Croatian Post (HP) and the country's transmission company, OiV, providing 24 channels. The pay DTT offer launched at the beginning of 2013 and in April had more than 10,000 subscribers.
RTL also operates RTL 2 in Croatia (multiplex B), and a pay TV channel: RTL Plus. In Eastern Europe RTL channels are also offered on free DTT in Hungary (RTL Klub) and on the pay DTT platform in Lithuania (RTL). RTL Group also holds a 7.5 per cent stake in Russian National Media Group (NMG) owner of Ren TV and Channel 5, as well as partially controlling Russian Pyervyi. The channels are available on DTT in Russia and in Baltic countries.
Croatia completed analogue switch-off (ASO) at the end of 2010. With DTT watched on primary TV sets by more than 40 per cent of total households it is the country's largest TV platform. RTL's interest in DTT in Central & Eastern Europe contrasts with it's core Western European market of Germany where it plans to withdraw its channels from DTT due to low usage.
RTL Kockica will be the first kids channel on Croatian DTT, filling a gap in the current offer. Most of the existing channels are general entertainment, but music, cultural, sports, women's-lifestyle and news channels are also available. As the free to air DTT platform launched in MPEG-2 compression there is now limited capacity for further channel launches so the slot is something of a coup.
HP's evoTV pay DTT offer is a strong compliment to the free line-up with a range of HD and premium movie, sport and adult channels, but requires a DVB-T2 MPEG-4 box. EvoTV sells (HD) boxes priced at Kun480 (about €60) with a monthly subscription starting from around Kun70 (about €9). Given the country's precarious economic situation, the box cost is likely to act as a hindrance to pay DTT uptake in the near-term.