Latest reports from Bulgarian regulator CRC show a second year of decline in the cable TV market as intense competition from satellite continues to bite. Although the rate of decline slowed in 2012, Bulgarian cable lost 25 per cent of its customers during 2010 and 2011 from about 1.2m at the end of 2009 to 0.9m at the end of 2011. The operators believe the decline will continue through 2013. IHS Screen Digest figures on Bulgarian cable TV have been reviewed to reflect the market trends.
The latest CRC report revised historical numbers downwards and said that the decline on cable in 2011 was due to a migration to satellite and IPTV platforms. Cable TV association, BACCO, says that aggressive pricing from the country's largest pay TV operator, satellite TV platform Bulsatcom, combined with the negative impact of the recession, both had an impact. In addition, IPTV and satellite operator Vivacom gained strongly in 2012 with over 70,000 new subscribers. The cable TV operators accuse Bulsatcom of price dumping, although this claim was dismissed by the competition authority.
IPTV has actually played a secondary role in the migration of cable TV subscribers in Bulgaria. Most of the migration from cable is going to satellite TV, primarily Bulsatcom's offer. In May 2010 Bulsatcom cut the price for its basic package with about 20 pay channels and ten free from BGN10.80 (€5.70) to BGN5.80 (€3.00), although the price has since risen to BGN6.80 (€3.60). By contrast, entry level prices on cable start from BGN15.00 (€7.90) to BGN20 (€10.50) for over 50 analogue channels. Because of the tough economic conditions a number of cable TV subscribers jumped to Bulsatcom's low-cost offer with a further boost coming from Bulsatcom's fibre Internet roll-out that started in 2010 and bundles fast broadband at competitive speeds and prices. In the case of the two other satellite TV operators prices start from BGN11.80 (€6.20) for Vivacom's offer to BGN38.00 (€20.00) for HD-focused Satellite.BG. Currently, multichannel penetration in Bulgaria stands at just over 60 per cent of homes. With the country's DTT launch considerably delayed (planned for 2009), satellite TV operators face no competition in the rural areas. Attractive offers helped them to take over a number of subscribers from cable TV players. However, as cable TV operators have now adjusted their prices, primarily lowering the price for basic packages, the churn on cable in 2013 is likely to be considerably lower.