Spain Pay-DTT: technology ready; content unavailable

From David Del Valle in Madrid

While technology companies like Nagravision take up positions in the Spanish pay-TV market following Abertis Telecom’s decision to choose its CAS to secure its DTT platform, pay-DTT content is conspicuous by its absence.

The lack of a real pay-DTT offer and the confusion about how to implement it technologically and commercially are paradoxically fostering pay-TV subscriptions to Sogecable-controlled digital DTH platform Digital Plus, which in a month has captured 320,000 clients through its premium football channel Canal Plus Liga (E15 a month).

Pay-DTT is not reality yet in Spain. The much-trumpeted football TV channel Gol TV (E14.90 a month), owned by Mediapro, shareholder in the commercial TV network La Sexta and holder of the majority of football TV rights, is not available through DTT yet, but only through other distribution platforms, such as cable or IPTV.

There are hardly any pay-DTT-ready devices available in market, of the total 21 million DTT devices already sold, only 2 per cent are ready for Pay-DTT. Nagravision has announced that NAGRA Media ACCESS is being integrated into TDT Premium homologated set-top boxes and conditional access modules (CAMs) to support the new platform operated by Abertis Telecom. According to the company, the first pay-DTT devices would be available this month. Nagravision claims to have closely collaborated with numerous IDTV, set-top boxes and CAM manufacturers such as OKI, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Vestel, ADB, Echostar, Motorola, Pace, Sagem, Siemens-Gigaset, Zinwell, SmarDTV, as well as the leading Spanish manufacturers Engel, Fagor, FTE Maximal, Ikusi and Televes.

For many experts, Mediapro is to blame for the lack of pay-DTT content available now. "Mediapro's doubts about how to develop the business are ruining all industry's expectations", said a pay DTT expert adding that "it seems that everyone is waiting for September 17th". On that day, the Spanish Parliament will vote for or against the Royal Decree Law that the Government approved last August to allow the distribution of pay DTT services.

Meantime, the Government is considering bringing forward the analogue switch-off scheduled for April 2010, to the end of February or beginning of March next year. According to the latest report from Pro DTT Association, Impulsa TDT, DTT coverage already reaches more than 96 per cent in the country (43.3 million people), with 11 million homes already connected to DTT, representing a penetration of 67.3 per cent, and 21 million DTT boxes sold. DTT viewing share stands at 43.4 per cent, 7.9 points above analogue TV.

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