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INTERVIEW: Bulgarian TV market has room for new DTH platform despite tough competition

INTERVIEW: Bulgarian TV market has room for new DTH platform despite tough competition Mihai Ursoi, country manager of SES for Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova

SOFIA (Bulgaria), December 5 (SeeNews) – There might be room for one more Direct-to-Home (DTH) platform in Bulgaria despite heavy competition on the country's TV market, a senior official of Luxembourg-headquartered satellite operator SES has told SeeNews.

Pay-TV penetration rate in Bulgaria currently stands around 90%, which is similar to the conditions that existed on the neighbouring Romanian market in 2013, when Orange Romania launched its DTH platform, Mihai Ursoi, country manager of SES for Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova, told SeeNews in a recent interview.

“Four years ago, when Orange started, nobody believed it was going to be a success," Ursoi said.

“Even back then, when they started, the pay-TV penetration in the country was over 80%.”

Orange Romania, a unit of France Telecom's Internet and mobile arm Orange, has partnered with SES since 2013, when the company launched its DTH platform. The company, one of SES' major clients in the region of Southeast Europe, also offers mobile Internet and fixed broadband services.

At end-September, Orange Romania had 369,000 users of its TV services, up 17% year-on-year, according to the company’s Q3 2017 financial report.

Orange’s success serves to prove that there is place for one more DTH platform in Bulgaria, but only if everything in terms of marketing strategy, pricing, content, etc. is done perfectly, Ursoi opined.

However, strong competition on the Bulgarian market is currently putting pressure on the prices, which the providers of TV services offer. Logically, as part of the supply chain, this might also affect the prices of satellite operators, Ursoi said.

In Bulgaria, a nation of just over 2 million households, there are 3 DTH platforms, which makes it a very competitive market, the SES regional manager said.

Similarly, there are 5 DTH platforms in Romania, where there are some 7 million households.

If a new platform is launched in Bulgaria, a serious factor which must be considered is the quality and quantity of high-definition (HD) channels offered.

According to a recent survey, commissioned by SES, 35% of Bulgarians take into consideration the variety of HD channels when choosing a TV service provider, Ursoi said. Some 25% of the respondents in Bulgaria said they were willing to pay more to have HD channels, according to the survey.

“In all our countries we are promoters of HD,” Ursoi said. “We have been the first one to transmit HD on satellite.”

However, there are additional challenges on those markets, which should be taken into consideration.

For example, piracy is a particularly significant issue, especially in Moldova and Bulgaria, according to SES’ regional manager.

“In Bulgaria it is a significant significant issue and I hear people talking about it all the time – I’ve been in this business for nearly 10 years and I hear this discussion every year.”

In terms of revenue, out of the three markets – Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova, Romania is the strongest one for SES, Ursoi said. The country also offers the biggest potential for SES, as the company already has a foothold there, he added.

Among other markets in Southeast Europe, the company has a long-standing partnership with Serbian state-controlled telecommunications operator Telekom Srbija.

TV services offered through SES satellites reach 350 million households worldwide, 135 million of which in Europe alone. The company covers  Europe's territory through 11 satellites placed in five prime video positions.

SES, which is listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange and Euronext Paris, recorded revenue of 1.5 billion euro ($1.8 billion) in the first nine months of 2017, according to data from the company’s interim financial statement.

($ = 0.8408 euro)

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