Since last year, local providers of television services have raced to include high-definition TV in their packages. Already, UPC, Romtelecom and RCS&RDS offer several HD channels each and demand for this technology, which promises a superior sound and image experience, is on the rise, boosted by the World Cup. Increasing sales of HD equipment have also encouraged the trend.
To be able to receive HD channels, the viewer needs an HD-ready or full-HD television set and an HD digital receiver. The receiver will be supplied by the television provider, and customers can rent or buy it.
UPC was the first of the local mass providers to launch HD services on the market in October 2009, betting on growth in the sales of equipment compatible with this technology. At the time of the launch, Iulia Florea, manager of customer relations and retail sales at UPC Romania, said the total number of TV sets compatible with the HD format had reached nearly 1 million. She added that UPC representatives expect an increase in the number of customers requesting this service, as Romanians are ready for HD. Florea estimated that the penetration of HD television would reach 40 percent between 2009 and 2013 and 50 percent by 2013.
Currently the firm can provide nine HD channels and has more than 7,000 subscribers, a figure released in February. “Sales have increased since then, partly as a result of the transmission of the World Cup at HD quality,” said company representatives, who attributed this trend to the growth in the number of channels (from the initial five to nine at the moment) but also to prices, which have been kept at the same level.
“We are optimistic about the evolution of sales in this segment, especially since 5 percent of the subscribers to this service are new customers or customers who have come back to UPC especially to benefit from it,” said UPC representatives.
The firm offers the following channels in HD format: PRO TV, TVR, Eurosport, Sport.ro, HBO, National Geographic, History Channel, Fashion TV and Utv.
“This evolution clearly proves that there is still demand for growth on this market for products with supplementary functions and advanced technologies,” added UPC representatives.
The company said some of its existing customers are ditching analog for digital television. “We will continue to focus on digital television services which represent one of our strong points, both at European level and in Romania, the general trend being to migrate from analog to digital television,” said officials.
The UPC HD service is available in the independent packages UPC Digital TV-Medium and Large, as well as in deals which contain various services such as 2Play and 3Play.
Existing and new customers who use analog television services from UPC need to switch to UPC Digital TV + HD in order to be able to receive the digital cable signal, and the company can rent its customers a digital media box.
Meanwhile, RCS&RDS launched HD television services on June 1. While they have not released any results, company officials said sales of HD television had increased “aggressively” since the service was launched.
At the moment, RCS & RDS offers five channels in HD format: TVR HD, Digi Sport HD, National Geographic HD, National Geographic Wild HD and, more recently, Utv HD.
Current subscribers with analog and digital cable packages can acquire these channels as part of the same subscription, without paying extra. An existing viewer has only to acquire or rent the HD reception equipment while a new customer also needs to sign up for a digital TV package (Base Digital or Extra Digital) and will receive the five HD channels as part of the deal.
The monthly rent for the decoder is RON 10 (including VAT). Those who have already taken out digital packages have the option of replacing the digital reception equipment with that for HD reception for an extra RON 4 (including VAT) rental fee.
“RCS & RDS customers’ interest in HD transmissions was and is still very high during this period. Watching the World Cup has been one of the biggest reasons why viewers have purchased packages in this format,” commented RCS&RDS representatives.
However, the company is convinced that the end of the football tournament will not also mean an end to demand for HD services. “After the World Cup, they can watch on Digi Sport HD First League derbies, as well as live transmissions of the most important competitions in the world: Primera Division, the Premier League, Italian Serie A, Moto GP, handball, NBA basketball and gymnastics.”
Elsewhere on the market, Romtelecom launched HD television services on June 4 and currently has five channels in its portfolio: TVR HD, ProTV HD, Sport.ro HD, Discovery Showcase HD and HBO HD. The firm timed the launch HD strategiccally, to capitalize on the World Cup. “Demand was influenced during this period by the events that were broadcast, but unfortunately we cannot give data on the number of HD customers at the moment, as we have launched this service very recently,” said officials. Among the customers who have subscribed to HD from Dolce services so far are both viewers who are new to Dolce and previously used other technologies (such as analog or digital cable) as well as those who were familiar with digital television via satellite. For the latter, the transfer to HD services was easy since they were used to a very good quality of sound and image.
Digital television customers of Romtelecom Dolce who already have HD-ready or full-HD television sets can acquire HD equipment from Romtelecom at prices that start from EUR 49, no VAT.