Digitalization wraps up in Poland: Bad news for broadcasters, good news for viewers?

Jul 18, 2013
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As Poland has gradually switched from its antiqued analogue television system to a more updated digital system, four of the largest TV channels have experienced a sharp drop in viewers, while at the same time, the number of digital television users continues to grow.

The move away from analog hit station TVP1 the hardest, with a loss of around 20 percent of its viewers from the 16-to-49 age group, a key demographic for advertisers.

The next-hardest hit was TVP2 with a 15-percent loss, followed by Polsat with a 13-percent loss. TVN managed to go through the switch with a mere 5-percent drop.

This trend, however, doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. Analysts predicted the diminishing viewership of TVP stations after the digitization in the 2010 Open Society Foundations’ “Mapping Digital Media” report on Poland

Polskie Radio attributes the loss in viewership of the big channels – two public and two private – to viewers switching to smaller stations.

But the digitization switch has not been the only factor in the drop in viewers for these channels. According to the OSF report, viewership in these channels has been decreasing since 2005 precipitated by a rise in other types of media. The report sees the drop in viewers as a good sign that diversity and competition are increasing in Polish media.

Poland adopted a “wave” method for the analog to digital switch on 21 December 2012 in order for people to adjust to digital television. The switch is expected to be complete this month, with the 31 July as the official switch off date for analog broadcasting, making Poland one of the last countries in Central Europe to digitize its broadcasting, with only Hungary yet to follow suit.

According to the OSF report, the digitization of Poland was consistently delayed by political disagreements and a lack of funding and technical assistance.

The transition from analog to digital is comparatively simple—a television owner simply has to connect a digital set-top to their television.

Although the digital set-tops are relatively inexpensive, the 2010 Open Society reports states that almost 11 percent of Polish citizens claimed that a set-top or a new digital television are out of their price range. That percentage is nearly double in the lower income levels.

A normal set-top costs around $83, and a discount set-top with less features costs around $17, the report notes.

Vectra, the second largest cable service in Poland, chose a cost-effective hybrid HP set-top to facilitate an easy transition to digital for their customers. Vectra has stated it will install the set-top in every customer’s house by the end of summer 2013.

Polskie Radio reports that an additional 5.7 million Poles more will now experience digital television, bringing the total to more than 10 million viewers.

The Ministry of Administration and Digitization has a budget of $7,360,600 for the switchover. The government will also provide assistance to those who cannot afford to upgrade their own televisions.

Digital TV Research reports that the as the switch to digital continues acrossEastern Europe, the number of people in digital homes will increase to 121 million by 2018.

Photo courtesy Sibe Kokke, creative commons

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About the Author

Molly Jane Zuckerman

Molly Zuckerman is an editorial intern at Transitions Online. She attends Wesleyan University and plans to jointly major in Russian Studies and Comparative Politics.

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