Invading the TV Market in East Europe

Jan 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

A year after acquiring DISCOP, the only content market dedicated exclusively to the emerging Central and Eastern European television business, NATPE is looking to continue broadening its Eastern European base. The group’s next objective will be to change how deals in the booming area will be handled.

The acquisition, the first of its kind for the National Association of Television Program Executives, marked a major step in the creation of a footprint outside of the U.S. and solidified NATPE’s future as a global digital distribution market and conference organization.

“Joining forces with NATPE has enabled us to get many more North American TV content producers interested in Central and Eastern Europe,” said Patrick Jucaud, general manager of the DISCOP organization. “At the last DISCOP, last June, we had twice as many U.S. companies attending the market as sellers as we had the year before.”

Although 2006 saw a relatively small number of strategic foreign investments in TV stations across the region compared with the previous year, programming deals and formats were up. Early signs point to a stronger foreign investment in outlets throughout the region in 2007, with Poland, in particular, taking center stage. The RTL Group, Europe’s largest TV, radio and production company, majority-owned by German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, is reportedly about to enter the country and News Corp. is amping up its activities in Poland as well. Mr. Jucaud noted that some important acquisitions can also be expected from Central European Media Enterprises or from the Mirror Television Group in 2007.

Mr. Jucaud and NATPE President Rick Feldman noted that while joining forces with NATPE gave DISCOP access for broader international deals for distributors, the next phase of NATPE’s plan will be to boost co-productions in the region and capitalize on an exploding format business.

“Our next objective is to enter the field of co-production and provide our participants with the possibility to seriously discuss co-production opportunities in addition to buying and selling finished programming,” Mr. Jucaud said. “We feel that co-production is the next big thing in Central and Eastern Europe, and we will expand our role by bringing Central and Eastern European co-production partners to DISCOP alongside Central and Eastern European buyers of finished content, as we have been doing since 1991.”

At DISCOP’s first market as part of NATPE in June 2006, attendance grew 36 percent from the previous year, with 1,325 individual participants. The numbers included 786 buyers/visitors representing 370 companies from Central and Eastern Europe and 54 companies from Hungary, 30 from Russia, 35 from Romania, 26 from Ukraine and 23 from Serbia-Montenegro. Among sellers, 45 companies from the U.S. attended the gathering along with 28 from Central and Eastern Europe.

“One of our strongest achievements in the last couple of years has been the increase in the number of Central and Eastern European participants taking part in DISCOP as TV content sellers,” Mr. Jucaud said. “We see more and more companies from Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, Romania, offering television content to their regional neighbors.”

Already, the 2007 market is near sold-out status despite competition from the MIP and MIPCOM markets in France every spring and fall.

“We always felt it was unreasonable to expect that we would get loads of Eastern Europeans to come to NATPE,” said Mr. Feldman. “However, we knew that the region was a fresh, fertile developing market, and an exciting place to be. So this deal has already proven to be a key part of our ongoing strategy.”

With the quick success of DISCOP under its belt, Mr. Feldman said NATPE will hold steady before considering adding other options.

“Right now we are not looking at any other organization to acquire,” he said. “It’s only been one year with DISCOP and we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew.”