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Spanish pay TV only in growth because of upstart DTT soccer service

As we’ve been compiling our next report on Pay TV in Europe, Spain stands out as an anomaly, the only market where the total number of pay TV subscrib

By PETER WHITE

Published: 7 April, 2011

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As we’ve been compiling our next report on Pay TV in Europe, Spain stands out as an anomaly, the only market where the total number of pay TV subscribers appears to have gone down during 2010. This week the regulator Commision del Mercado del las Telecommicaciones (CMT) has come out with numbers that give a bit of clue as to why.

It actually says that subscriber numbers have gone up, but that’s because it counts Digital Terrestrial Pay TV service (something we’ve not done in our report) and shows a surge in GolTV, the soccer focused TV channels which are now paid on DTT. Singlehandedly it is responsible for almost 200,000 gains during the year, taking pay TV customers to just under 4.3 million homes, virtually a 200,000 rise.

Most DTT services when paid around Europe have made no serious dents in pay TV – KPN has Digitenne in the Netherlands, which is more or less stagnant, as is Boxer in Scandinavia, both under 1 million, while Mediaset in Italy has launched Mediaset Premium and claims it goes to 3.6 million and has about half of them on an annual subscription. It launched the service in 2005 and built this customer base on Football and Movies, a classic pay TV formula – determined to go up against the pay TV platform of Sky Italia. Some efforts have also been tried with limited success in Eastern Europe. Already in Spain Abertis has the mission to drive a DTT paid service, TDT Premium, but has been slow to solve technical issues.

With all the market growth going to a single player this means that every traditional pay TV operator has been losing customers during 2010 except the IPTV service from Telefonica called Moviestar Imagenio, which the CMT reports now has 784,000 subscribers, up about 12% from a year ago. This means falls of 2.7% of customers to 1.77 million at market leading DTH company Prisa’ Sogecable with its Digital Plus TV service and a drop of 1.3% to 960,000 at cable leader Ono.

Across Europe it’s fairly common for cable companies to lose TV subscribers, but at the same time increase the number of services they are offering, making more customers digital, selling broadband, and driving up ARPU. However if the pay TV companies in Spain are doing that they are losing out on TV ARPU. Subscription revenues for pay TV are just €398 million there compared to €404 million a year earlier, although the figures had gone lower in the first three quarters of 2010, and are now recovering.

The 57 page report can be found on the CMT web site but it’s in Spanish. There are sections on broadband, fixed telephony and cellular, and Telefonica is the broadband leader delivering 53.6% of all broadband lines in Spain.

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