Thursday, February 04, 2010

Latvia officially launches digital terrestrial TV

After broadcasting under test conditions since late December (in Riga since last summer), digital terrestrial TV was launched as a commercial-quality service in Latvia. Free-to-air and pay channels are being packaged by fixed-network telco Lattelecom, while the new digital network has been set up and operated by the Latvian State Radio and Television Center (LVRTC). Latvia's analog broadcast network will be shut down in two steps -- in Riga and environs (a roughly 70 km radius) on April 1, and on June 1 in the rest of the country.
At a press conference, Lattelecom CEO Juris Gulbis also announced that digital terrestrial paid channels would be available as a pre-paid service that could be filled up at Narvesen or Plus Punkts kiosks, on the internet and later, at large supermarket chains (negotiations are still in progress). To watch pre-paid digital broadcast TV, customers can buy a starter kit for LVL 44.50, which includes a decoder and smart card to be activated by a code purchased by buying credit for the length of time and program packet one wants to watch. The model is similar to that for prepaid mobile services, where once the customer has a SIM card (in this case, the decoder smart card), all that is needed is to top-off the available credit.
Gulbis said that he estimates more than 50 000 households are already watching digital terrestrial TV, of which 21 000 have subscribed to paid services. Public television Latvijas televizija's two channels, and commercial broadcasters LNT and TV 5 will be part of the free-to-air offering. Swedish Modern Times Group (MTG) owned TV3 has been a hold-out, saying it intends to continue broadcasting on the analog network at least until the end of this year. The LVRTC has indicated it will simply cut off service to TV3, since it is unreasonable to expect the company to pay the full cost of the entire analog network, which is estimated around LVL 2 million.
Kaspars Ozoliņš, who heads MTG's television operations in the Baltics, says the Lattelecom-LVRTC project's costs for broadcasters are excessive compared to neighboring Estonia and Lithuania, where digitalization is further advanced. There have been hints that the stand-off could end in litigation, though Ozoliņš insists he is defending the interests of low-income viewers and trying to save money for program production, rather than paying broadcasting costs.


Jüri Kaljundi said...

Here in Estonia analogue terrestrial TV will be cut off July 1st. Then again, we have had digital TV operational an promoted for a long time already.

Do I understand correctly, that in LV it was just launched and already in April & June the old system will be cut off? Isn't that a bit extreme, if not to say stupid?!

John said...

Hmmm very nice piece of equipment. Now if it only handled CableCards I would buy it in a nanosecond.When will it will in market?
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