Market Insight

Bulgaria's Satellite BG closes

June 02, 2013

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Bulgaria's satellite TV operator, Satellite BG (SBG), stopped broadcasting on 1 June due to financial problems. SBG made an agreement with another player, Vivacom, which will offer SBG's subscribers an option to sign up to Vivacom's TV service. At the same time SBG denies it has been acquired by Vivacom. The subscribers who have paid for SBG's service beyond May 2013 will be reimbursed.

The platform launched early in 2004, owned by Interactive Technologies and run under the brand ITV Partners. In August 2009 it was acquired by Mid Europa Partners (MEP) to start broadcast as TotalTV in April 2010. Soon after that, however, MEP decided to sell it to local investors Ljubomir Pavlov and Rumen Artarski, who decided to launch new packages branded Satellite BG, and to move TotalTV's subscribers under this new brand.

Since its relaunch in 2011, SBG has been trying to focus on HDTV, with short of 20 HD channels it broadcast already in 2011, while its competitors did not offer more than 10 by that time. Recently, out of over 60 channels it offered, 23 were in HD. According to IHS Electronics and Media, at the end of 2012 the operator had less than 50,000 subscribers.

The conditions under which Vivacom agreed to offer SBG's subscribers its TV service after the company ends broadcast remain unknown. While denying that any acquisition took place, SBG says that its offer is more similar to that of Vivacom than to another satellite player, Bulsatcom. A certain commercial deal is therefore a possibility. It's hard to estimate how many of SBG's subscribers will accept Vivacom's offer. In fact Bulsatcom's lower prices may prove more attractive in many cases.

Satellite platforms in Bulgaria has been recently growing very well, mainly at the expense of cable TV.

Price has been the market's growth major driver, and SBG with its high-end oriented HD offer found it very difficult to gain a sufficient number of subscribers to ensure it can balance its sheets. Under such conditions a DTT platform, which launched in March with free-to-air channels, can surely make better progress.

Due to financial problems SBG has been looking for an investor, yet it failed, becoming another example showing that the economic conditions are crucial for every HD-focused platform. SBG joins a few other unsuccessful satellite TV projects which launched in the region: Ukraine's Poverkhnost and MyTV, and Russian Platforma HD, all closed down soon after launching; as well as Hungarian Hello HD, which since launch in 2008 never had more than 5,000 subscribers. Better economic conditions for an HD-focused satellite platform were in Poland, much less affected by economic recession than other countries in the region. Platform N launched in 2006 from the very beginning targeting a high-end of the market with an HD focused offer. In 2011 having well over 900,000 subscribers it was acquired by Canal Plus with its sister project, Telewizja Na Karte (TNK) focusing on the low end sector of the market. TNK, which launched in 2008, since 2010 has been also offering HD packages, by the end of 2012 having one third of short of its 300,000 subscribers on HD.

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