Study: Russia's Tricolor to Overtake BSkyB, Become No. 2 Euro Pay TV Company

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Liberty Global chairman John Malone

John Malone's Liberty Global will remain on top and slightly grow its TV user base by 2018, predicts Digital TV Research.

LONDON – John Malone's Liberty Global will remain the largest European pay TV operator in terms of subscribers in the coming years, but Britain's BSkyB will have to give up the second spot to a Russian company, according to a new report.

Research firm Digital TV Research said Liberty Global "extended its lead as Europe’s largest pay TV operation with the recent acquisition of the U.K.’s Virgin Media," coming in with 20.97 million TV subscribers as of the end of 2012. "The group had twice as many subscribers as second-placed BSkyB," which ended 2012 with 10.33 million, the firm highlighted.

It forecast that by 2018, Liberty Global would see slight growth to 21.25 million pay TV subscribers.

BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, will then have 10.84 million subscribers, according to the Digital TV Research projection. Russia's Tricolor will overtake its user count, growing from 9.20 million TV subscribers last year to 15.75 million in 2018, it predicted.

Low-cost provider Tricolor has many non-paying users, which the research firm said it did not include in its user count.

Rounding out the top 5 European pay TV firms are Kabel Deutschland with 8.14 million subscribers as of the end of 2012, which could edge up to 8.16 million in 2018, and Russia's Rostelecom (6.60 million, 7.13 million).

Pay TV subscriptions for 102 operators across 26 countries covered in the report will increase from 105.8 million in 2008 and 131.9 million in 2012 to 147.1 million in 2018, according to from Digital TV Research.

"However, not all of these operators will increase their subscriber bases, with 36 percent expected to decline between 2012 and 2018," Digital TV Research predicted. "Traditional pay TV operators now face greater rivalry than ever before – either from other pay TV platforms such as IPTV or satellite or from “free” multi-channel TV services, such as DTT and online TV and video."

Total subscriber and VOD revenue for the operators covered increased from $26.8 billion in 2008 to $34.5 billion in 2012. That will only grow to $35.1 billion by 2018 though, Digital TV Research predicted.

Twitter: @georgszalai