Greek slump hits pay TV

The country has just one significant pay TV operator, Forthnet, which has been in merger discussions with several parties including Telco Wind Hellas, and global mobile and broadband provider Vodafone.

Forthnet began as an Internet Service Provider, but then in 2008 purchased Netmed, owner of DTH satellite TV providers NOVA Greece and NOVA Cyprus, for €430 million. Currently, it has 350,000 pay TV subscribers, but this is now decreasing as a growing number of customers cannot afford the subscription. Wind Hellas, based in Athens, offers fixed-line services and is also Greece’s third-largest mobile operator after Cosmote and Vodafone, with over 4 million subscribers. However, it also ran into financial difficulties because of the slump, and so may not be in a position to merge with Forthnet, although discussions took place in 2011. Vodafone can afford it, but, given the country’s turmoil, is reluctant to spend too much on assets of declining value.

Greece is now in its fifth successive year of recession, which is accelerating as its economy contracted by 6.8 percent in 2011, bringing output levels down by about 16 percent from the peak in 2007 before the crisis began. Membership of the Euro has been a major contributing factor, since interest policy has been engineered more to suit the major economies, notably Germany, holding up the currency’s value and making it hard for Greece to compete, and even retarding tourism as inflation drove prices up.

European finance ministers did approve a €130 billion bailout package for Greece last week after a night of haggling in Brussels. Many analysts, however, consider this will only postpone the day of the country’s exit from the Euro, enabling it to devalue its own currency and start to recover.