Content Budapest 2023: platforms and broadcasters needs and trends

Executives from key international platforms and private and public broadcasters shared their content strategies and main alliances in order to maintain the relevance in the current landscape.

28 JUN 2023

Katalin Radóczy, Izabella Wiley and Mustafa Alpay Güler

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Content Budapest 2023 analyzed how private and public broadcasters and streamers elaborate their content strategies and seal crucial alliances to offer a stand-out slate to the audience. In one of the commissioning sessions, executives from key international platforms with a pan-regional reach discussed the content strategies driving their decision-making. Katalin Radóczy, VP of Programming AMC Networks International, affirmed that the company is quite active in local productions for their lifestyle and documentary channels, "but most of the content for these channels is acquired from the US but also from Europe," she said. "Our current focus is in the Czech Republic, where we have local production in developing for this year, and we are looking for documentaries for our Spectrum channel for the next year. On the other hand, in Romania, we have a cooking show in production, and we are looking for new ideas that can fit in our channels."

Radóczy also mentioned that in the documentary field, AMC Networks International is looking for edutainment and entertainment projects for their viewers. Izabella Wiley, Senior VP and general manager of Central & Eastern Europe A+E Networks EMEA mentioned that the company operates the most significant channels in Poland, Romania, and Hungary, "where we are looking for partners for history productions," she affirmed. On the other hand, she mentioned a coproduction with Netflix that worked very well in both the linear window and the digital platform. "It's a possible model; the productions have a higher production value because two companies are involved, and it's a business model that we continue to look for," she said

Mustafa Alpay Güler, Board member, MD international BluTV, the first subscription video-on-demand service in Turkey, said that BluTv is an OTT service. Still, it also has two linear channels, one in Turkey and one abroad in the Arabic region. "Our local programming is the traditional Turkey TV series; more than 80 % of our content is scripted, and it is about crime, drama, and romantic genres, and the rest is unscripted and is about documentaries and Kid content," he detailed. "Thank God we are producing Turkey content because it is traveling a lot," he noted. Alpay Güler also said that in the last two years, BluTV signed partnerships with players in CEE, Asia, Latin America, Arabic region, and they are now co-producers. "This allows us to continue producing local content because the local programming is the main driver of our business, it is difficult, so we partner with international companies and broadcasters that enjoy Turkey content," he slatted. On the other hand, players from the commercial broadcasting space talked about their content strategies, coproduction opportunities, new slates, and ways they're driving revenue despite challenging market pressures.

Silvia Stefanescu, Programme Development and Strategy Manager of PRO TV, gave an overview of the consuming habits in Romania. "People in Romania still watch traditional linear TV and want to watch returning formats yearly. People watch TV five hours per day. Still, currently, we are facing strong competition coming from the streamers," she said. Stefanescu also reminded that PRO TV had produced the most hits formats during the last ten years, and affirmed that the talent shows and reality shows work very well in the country, so "we are looking for more than kind of formats," she said. Branko Čakarmiš, General Director at Pro Plus, presented a general description of TV penetration in Slovenia. "Slovenia is a small market but technologically very advanced, people are still sitting in front of the TV set but not only watching linear channels, so we have to fight for our space in the remote control," he mentioned. Regarding the strategies to compete in the current audiovisual arena, the executive asserted that they are experimenting extensively on the production and broadcasting sides. Our main challenges are in the digital space, so we have to be more creative; producing content for the digital sector is different than from linear channels," he said.

The last commissioning session was for the public service broadcasters. Key managers running public service broadcasters across CEE debated their programming priorities, areas they're looking to partner in and new slates, and how they're evolving against a backdrop of ever-increasing competition. Marcin Skabara, Director of the programming strategy at Telewizja Polska; Jan Maxa, Director of Content and New Media at Czech TV; Jana Semjonova, Program director LTV (Latvia) and Gytis Oganauskas, Deputy director general at LRT (Lithuanian) agreed that the public broadcaster service continuing being very strong in the CEE countries. "People trust public broadcasters' news, and the public broadcasters get strong in uncertain times like nowadays," Skabara said. "We are still OK in the Czech Republic because the level of trust in us is very high," Maxa commented. Semjonova mentioned LTV's primary goal is to offer excellent service to the public with good news, which maintains the channel's strong presence. Oganauskas showed his concern about social media platforms because the young generations watch the news in their feeds. "They spend a lot of their time on social media, so for us, in Slovenia, it is essential to have a presence in all the platforms to reach the audience as much as possible," he said.

Izzet Pinto, CEO of Global Agency, discussed building a global television success from nothing, playing a pivotal role in making Turkish TV series the powerful brand they are today. Pinto took the audience on a rollercoaster journey, from working as a street vendor in Bangkok to walking the red carpet and winning a prestigious award at Cannes. His determination to never give up and his power to inspire has been the driving force in creating from scratch Global Agency, now a significant player in the international TV market, representing hundreds of productions with audiences of 700 million worldwide. Pinto also discussed the changing media landscape and how he sees it evolving over the coming year. "I really hated selling shoes and wanted to change it, so a friend told me why I don't you sell formats, and I didn't know how to do it. I googled it, and Mipcom appeared. I went to Cannes without much success, but the next year, I started to sell Turkey formats, and that it's how everything started," he described. "I always envied the creators of the big shows watched all around the world, so I decided to create my first show named "Keep your light shining," where 12 participants have to sing part of the song, and the judges chose three of them, and the public eliminates one," explained Pinto. "I didn't do everything on my own; we have a big team that it's a family for me," he added.

Jamie Cooke, general manager of Warner Bros. Discovery CEE, Baltics, Middle East, Mediterranean, and Turkey, mentioned his critical priorities for unscripted and scripted programming and his vision for the next twelve months and beyond. He asserted that companies need to create an ecosystem and diversify their business models to survive in the current challenging landscape. "All companies are facing challenges, no matter if they are linear channels or streaming, "we have to ensure different platforms and windows to deliver content to the audience," he said. The executive also mentioned the successful unscripted show "The Bridge," which had multiple versions, including the Hungarian one. It stood out that nowadays, they are much more focused on documentaries for HBO. "We are producing about 7 to 10 documentaries focused on social issues that cross barriers, as well as sport and crime documentaries because they can travel worldwide," he asserted. Talking about current trends, Jamie Cooke pointed out that Pay TV is not declining, on the contrary "is growing in some territories," he mentioned. "We need to find the balance between the linear and the streamer because from the consumer perspective, I think people hire three or four digital platforms, one is the local, the other one is Netflix, and there is space for one and two more, for that reason, it is so important to create an ecosystem," he said.

On the second day of the event, K7 Media's communications manager David Ciaramella provided a complete analysis of trends in the CEE region and beyond based on data from K7's annual Tracking the Giants reports, highlighting the most successful formats and genres of the moment and shedding light on what gives a concept or story the ability to translate across multiple territories. The report shows the 100 tracking scripted and unscripted giants formats aired in 2022 and 2023. David Ciaramella mentioned the top 9 most-adapted scripted formats, starting with the crime series "Your Honor" from Yes Studios with seven new versions aired, the thriller "Liar" from All3media with six adaptations, the comedy "No Activity" from WBITTVP/MassMedia Format also with six adaptations; the comedy-drama "Call my Agent" from France TV Distribution with five versions aired; the telenovela "Dear Daddies" from Paramount Global adapted in five territories, and the last titles have four adaptations, the comedy-drama "Der Lehrer (The Teacher)" from Sony Pictures Television; the series "Doctor Foster" from BBC Studios and the comedy "La Familia" from Armoza Formats. In terms of genres, comedy is the most adapted content between 2022 and 2023, followed by Crime; Thriller; Comedy, Drama, Romance; Family, Telenovela, and Relationship. Ciaramella also mentioned that the UK is at the top of the list of formats originators by adaptations, followed by Israel, South Korea, the USA, Turkey, Argentina, and Japan.

Regarding the unscripted formats, Ciaramella featured the most adapted arrangements worldwide, starting from the entertainment format "The Masked Singer" from MBC/Fremantle with nine versions; "The Traitors" from All3media with seven versions; the reality "The Bridge" from Banijay with six adaptations as well as the factual entertainment format "Sort Your Life Out" from All3Media, follows by the factual entertainment "Married at First Sight" from Red Arrow Studios International and "Masteched" from Banijay with five adaptations.

K7 Media also listed the most genres adapted worldwide. They are the factual formats that document actual events and people, with the primary purpose of exploring the subject and providing insight, like "Emergency Call"; the factual entertainment formats center on real people and aspects of their natural lives for people's entertainment, but also sometimes with a purpose like "Shark Tank, and "Come Dine with me"; reality formats that often present how ordinary people behave in pursuit of the goal like "Big Brother," "Survivor," "The Farm" or "Too Hot to Handle" and lastly, the entertainment formats that include everything from quizzes to studio, to physical games, cooking, dating games like "The Voice," "The Masked Singer" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." "The CEE Region is the second territory in formats' adaptations with 277 active versions head by 'Family Feud,' 'Got Talent,' 'The Masked Singer'; 'Married at First Sight,' and 'MasterChef.' The countries with more formats' adaptations are Poland; Hungary; Romania; Estonia, and Slovakia," he detailed.

Furthermore, Senior CEE executives have dissected and discussed the latest trends in the pay TV, online, and OTT space, drilling down on programming and production, navigating legislation, ensuring coverage, and the race to get ahead of rivals by building subscribers. Nick Doff, Development Director at Network4, mentioned that the company had increased and had 20 channels. "Our sports channel is number two in Hungary," he said. Tatjana Pavlović, Head of Production and Distribution at United Media, said the company is in eight territories with 55 channels. "We create content for our channels and platforms and buy channels to complete the offer." Dorota Eberhardt, Content strategy director at Warner Bros. Discovery Poland, stated that the company has 25 channels plus three digital platforms in the CEE region and affirmed that Pay TV is already bringing revenues to the company in Poland. "It's crucial for our regional business model," she added. Bill Wijdeveld, VP of platform content services at M7 Group, mentioned that the company has to innovate to continue being relevant as a Pay TV company.

Regarding the importance of Pay TV in CEE, Doff said he's worried about the OTT impact had on the company's business, but "we are looking to work together with SVOD, AVOD and linear players," he declared. Eberhardt expressed that in Poland, TV still intensely penetrates the country. "We know that it's going to decrease, but for now is very important in the video market," she said.For Pavlović, as long as Pay TV broadcasts sports, news, and some highlight entertainment programs, "the sector will be well." Wijdeveld agreed with the other panelist and pointed out the vital relevance of Pay TV nowadays, but "we need to prepare for the future and follow the consuming habits of young people," he manifested.

                                                                                                                                                       By Romina Rodríguez from Budapest