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Digital TV in Hungary: many questions unanswered

The latest in Broadband TV News series of business breakfasts, organized jointly with Telenor Satellite Broadcasting and held in Budapest on April 19, left many questions about the Hungarian digital TV still unanswered.

Perhaps the most important of these was when the country will finally complete the transition to digital broadcasting. According to Antenna Hungária’s CEO Jean-Francois Fenech, it could take place in six or even 18 months time: in truth, no one really knows.

What is clear, however, is that the absence of an ASO date is creating uncertainty and indeed having a detrimental effect on the industry. So, too, is the controversial telco tax, which delegates from such leading companies as Antenna Hungária, Magyar Telekom and UPC Hungary all touched on to some degree.

Yet there was also a lot of good to report about the Hungarian digital TV industry. In the DTT sector, for instance, the FTA service MinDig TV is now received in over 300,000 homes, while its pay counterpart MinDig TV Extra already has over 60,000 subscribers. Antenna Hungária’s aim is to have one million homes receiving its DTT offer, and despite the already saturated nature of the Hungarian pay-TV market the goal looks achievable.

Magyar Telekom is meanwhile making significant strides in its roll out of interactive services, evidenced by the early success of the DTH platform Interactive Sat TV last December. Without going into further details, Balazs Birck, the lead of department, innovation and product at the company, revealed that it would be launching multiscreen services this year.

Hungary has been a key market for both UPC’s cable and DTH operations for a number of years and continues to be so. Although Betzalel Kenigsztein, the CEO of UPC Hungary, was unable to shed any light on when Horizon will make its debut in the country, he emphasized that triple play was the key to success for the operator. There is a demand in the market for higher internet access speeds and the operator undertook a trial that attained 1 Gbps only a couple of months ago.

Magnus Tersnjö, MD of UPC Broadband’s DTH business, meanwhile said that it sees itself as a regional player in the sector, being present in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. Citing figures produced by the regulator NMHH, he added that its share of the DTH market in Hungary was growing month by month.

Hungary is also an important market for the content sector, being the headquarters of Chello Central Europe. Levente Málnay, the company’s CEO, said that high multichannel penetration in Hungary showed the digitalization was “a done deal” and discussed in some details the challenges a media company faces in the non-linear world.

Chris Dziadul, Broadband TV News