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Spain and Italy decline, but Germany fuels European pay TV growth

Pay TV subscribers in Spain and Italy declined last year, but overall numbers for Western Europe were up, spurred by strong growth in Germany, according to new research.

The Digital TV Research numbers contrast with those from Informa Telecoms & Media, which recently reported that cumulative pay TV subs fell in Western Europe for the first time ever in 2012.

Informa reported that there were 92.6 million subs in the region while Digital TV puts the number at 94.1 million.

The latter said that the growth it reports comes as Germany added 689,000 pay subs in 2012 and France 347,000. It estimates an overall one million subscriber increase in Western Europe last year and adds there will be a similar increase in 2013.

Italy was down 428,000 over the year and Spain by 350,000 and report author Simon Murray said both will suffer further subscriber reverses this year and next before returning to growth in 2015.

Region-wide, there will be 6.9% growth in pay TV subs between 2012 and 2018, taking the total north of 100 million for the first time ever. That will take pay TV penetration to 57% in Western Europe although there will be wide disparities by territory with, for example, almost full penetration in the Netherlands and just 24% in Spain.

By platform digital cable will grow by 14.7 million subs and IPTV by 6.5 million across that time frame. Pay DTH subs will increase by 2.5 million and pay DTT subscriptions will fall by 187,000 to 7.4 million.

Report author Murray said that despite the growth overall pay TV revenues will remain flat. “The main reason for this is that ARPU is falling in most countries and on most platforms. The pay TV arena is becoming more competitive as new platforms launch and as cable operators upgrade their networks to offer bundles and advanced services such as HD channels and DVRs,” he added.