Dutch cable giant UPC has claimed the lead in the race to deliver digital services to Poland. It has also unveiled plans for the roll-out of broadband services in the territory later this year.
UPC said that at the end of June it had 378,000 subscribers to its digital cable services, compared with the 325,000 claimed by Canal Plus' Polish service Cyfra Plus. Since UPC bought Poland's @Entertainment in 1999, the two groups have been racing to develop the digital pay-TV market. UPC said that it hopes to have 600,000 Polish subscribers by the end of 2001. It currently has a total of 1.4 million analogue and digital subscribers to the Wizja cable network it bought with @Entertainment.
UPC managing director Bruce Massey said that he plans a slow start to the broadband internet service which will go under the Chello brand name. Some 175,000 homes are targeted in the Warsaw and Krakow regions. Katowice, Gdansk and Lublin will be covered in 2001. Delivering internet services to 80% of its Polish cable subscribers is expected to take two to three years.
UPC had previously announced plans for internet services back in March, but it was only granted a data licence late last month. The necessary upgrades will cost $80m-$100m over the next five to six years.
The company, which last year earned $49.7m in Poland, is now talking to prospective partners to provide Polish-language content. It received a major setback in the market earlier this year when its planned merger with SBS Broadcasting was called off. SBS has since increased its holding in TVN, the country's second largest TV broadcaster that was previously described as an important plank in UPC's Polish strategy.