BUDAPEST — Hungary’s digital TV breakthrough is still beset by obstacles.
Insiders warn that a lack of broadcast-tower infrastructure could hold back the revolution. At its current rate of progress, state-owned tower company Antenna Hungaria (AH) is unlikely to have real digital capability until 2005.
Despite that, Hungary’s two commercial broadcasters are set to usher in digital platforms in this developed but modest market of 10.5 million inhabitants and 3.7 million TV households as soon as it is viable.
Networks RTL Klub, controlled by CLT-Ufa, and TV2, controlled by SBS, are already using digital technology to bring their programming to Magyar viewers.
“Hungary is a good, strong, solid market,” says Justin Bodle, head of the Powercorp, a distribution/media company active in Eastern Europe. “All these qualities point to a healthy digital market here. Viewers will need digital and viewers will want it.”
In 1999, AH inaugurated a modest digital broadcast experiment that now broadcasts public channels M1, M2 and Duna TV in the Budapest area. AH says it will upgrade this system by the end of the year.
According to the industry, the success of digital in Hungary will depend on cost. “Thematic television is popular here,” says Cecilia Hazai, owner of TV distrib Twin Media. “And in a digital environment more of these channels can be aired. But it’s going to depend on price.
“If you can upgrade from cable to digital for a reasonable fee, people will go for it.”