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The Czech equivalent of Squid Game Show Wanted

Central European Media Enterprises (CME)

3/1/2022 | 4 minutes to read

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In late 2021 Didier Stoessel, the CEO of Central European Media Enterprises (CME), sat down with the reporters of the Czech edition of Forbes monthly for his first deep-dive interview after taking over the helm of the largest television broadcaster in Central and South-eastern Europe. The following is the interview’s summary in English. You can access the Czech original here

Although Didier Stoessel focused on discussing TV NOVA and the situation in the Czech market, he also highlighted CME’s ambitious business goals and challenges across all markets (Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic) where the media group operates. Didier Stoessel sees that the development of top-quality original content and the CME’s Voyo streaming platform is critical to solidifying and expanding the company’s market share amid quickly changing video consumption habits.

  • Competition on the Czech market is partly dictated by TV NOVA (CME), the largest and most popular commercial/private TV channel, and Czech public TV (ČT). NOVA ranks in top position for number of viewers, while ČT draws a following for quality TV broadcasting of series, documentaries, news and current affairs.
  • TV NOVA’s business goals are aggressive, specifically regarding its Subscribe Video-on-Demand (SVOD) service Voyo. Voyo is the key to CME’s success on the Czech and other markets, says Didier. “In what business can one aim for acquiring 300,000 to 400,000 new customers in one year,” he says.
  • While CME may not be a European or global player, Didier believes CME is very strong regionally, where the media still has major potential and a great affinity for local content. In France, people demand French shows, and in Germany, people want to see mainly German content. Czechs, Slovaks and Romanians are not dissimilar, preferring content which features local actors, programs in their own languages and entertainment with stories relevant to their own everyday lives and history.
  • Didier is driven by the current climate of digital transformation, and under PPF’s investments and leadership, is seeking ways of expanding CME through streaming and smart distribution, not necessarily to compete at the level of Netflix, but in leveraging opportunity.
  • Transforming the entire sector is not about an expensive change in production site but a complex shift in creating new products and competing with global players in the top league, not minor league clubs. ČT is an excellent broadcaster, but NOVA is three times bigger and engaged in major entertainment projects, niche programming, film production and co-production, all at one location.
  • High-quality content distribution has a wealth of new opportunities on its doorstep. This is not change but expansion, and CME wants to attract talent through opportunities to create almost any type of content.
  • Traditionally, programming at Nova was very selective, and linear broadcasting needed only a maximum of three to four serials per year. Talented individuals saw no reason to come here, and content creators forgot to knock on NOVA’s door to share their great ideas. One of the first things a new CEO did was to open those doors and listen to people. Those people are now coming on their own and knocking. CME has changed its internal processes and meets every week to discuss new projects and gets feedback about a month later.
  • This business is all about talent, the best screenwriters, producers and actors who know how to produce top-rated shows. NOVA is somewhat of a sleeping giant, under-invested and largely untapped. Since the company has been for sale for a while, it has concentrated on its daily routine, but development is a long-term business, which is now changing with PPF.
  • A new TV series takes about two years to produce after a new idea is first discussed. In 2022 NOVA wants to broadcast about 12 original series on Voyo, 23 next year and 33 in 2024.
  • The overall trend is that in the future, 80% of households with an internet connection will stream two to three SVOD services on average, typically Netflix, a local content provider and a sports service.
  • Asked about his vision for CME at the time he was appointed a year ago, Didier mentioned a million Voyo subscribers in Czechia and Slovakia within five years. CME has progressed along that road, moving ahead a third of the way in less than a year. Linear NOVA TV is also attracting a growing number of viewers, so it isn’t a process of cannibalization. These two forms of content consumption complement and build on each other.
  • Linear TV is also ripe for revival. TV advertising still works very well, and online and TV together offer a potentially winning combination.

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