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Volia set to add new features to Smart HD

Ukrainian cable operator Volia will launch its hybrid IP/cable Smart HD set-top box and catch-up services next month, with multiscreen content to be added by the end of the year, according to Andrzej Metelski, overall project manager for OTT, speaking at Informa’s Digital TV CEE conference in Krakow yesterday.

Volia launched OTT to provide interactive services to its own subscriber base and also to extend its reach beyond its own footprint. The operator is already providing the service to partner operators. Next month it will launch a hybrid set top for its existing clients. Catch up TV will also arrive in July, with multiscreen distribution to be added by the end of this year, according to Metelski.

He said that customers wanted to watch time-shifted content and the willingness of customers to pay for this convenience has been shown by the success of services such as Netflix and Hulu. Smart HD already provides a library of 20,000 content assets to customers and Volia is planning to deliver as much as possible to multiple screens.

Smart HD subs will need a Volia Smart HD set top and an internet connection of 5Mbps. There are three packages, Start for the equivalent of €8 with 90 channels, Optimal for €11 with 120 channels and Optimal HD for €13 with 130-plus channels.

Metelski said half of all TV households in the Ukraine currently access analogue over the air TV, with about a third using cable services. Analogue switch off is expected in 2015 and Volia wants to be prepared to win sub to pay TV at that point. To target this market, Volia may offer a hybrid box as well as its IP box, Metelski told attendees. He said Volia is also offering a large number of advertising-supported VOD titles that it can use to tempt free-to-air viewers.

Metelski said other reasons for the launch of Smart HD included that high-speed mobile networks are on the way and OTT operators are expected to compete for business. He said an intensification of campaigns against piracy will also help drive those that currently use illegal services to legitimate pay TV services, and Volia could stand to benefit from that.