When a cable TV company apologizes to its customers for delays converting analog to digital cable connections and then places an ad hiring more technicians, it is probably a story. My paper sort of half skipped it (may run later this week), so here it is:
Baltkom TV, Latvia's largest cable network with more than 125 000 subscribers, is now revising upward its forecasts for uptake of its digital cable service on its optical network. Marketing direktor Juris Kezberis says that switchers by year-end will exceed the 5 000 households earlier forecast and probably pass 25 000 instead of 15 000 during 2005.
Baltkom made the initial forecasts when it recently announced it was starting to switch broadcasts on its MMDS network from analog to digital, claiming it was the first to start digital terrestrial broadcasting in Latvia. The state-sponsored project to start digital TV on "standard" frequencies (MMDS reception requires special equipment) has ground to a halt since last year, with everybody involved suing everybody else (to sum it up without a long digression).
So it appears that digital cable TV is generating major demand in Latvia. The initial offering is 49 channels, many of them uncoded Russian, German and English language programs. Latvia's Latvian Independent Television is planning to launch at least two digital channels exclusively on Baltkom and a deal is apparently being negotiated to carry LTV 1 and LTV 7, the public service channels on digital cable as well.
In mobile phone news, Sony-Ericsson is upgrading its sales activities in the Baltic by advertising in the Swedish for a regional manager to be based in Lithuania (according to my sources). This means that the handset dealer will have to make a steep uphill comeback from when it, as still Ericsson, essentially abandoned the Latvian market a few years ago. (Sony) Ericsson's market share in Latvia then plummeted to the low single digits (no exact figures, sorry), and it was quickly overtaken by Siemens and Samsung. Nokia, of course, remains at the top, a looming presence like a large bear in the wods.