First, could you please share with us a couple of words on who is Didier Stoessel?
I am a Frenchman, half of my career is in the finance world, I was a banker in New York and London. The other half, I am an entrepreneur in media, technologies and digital businesses, so that is me in three words.
You have been appointed CEO CME in October 2020; can you please tell us what your key conclusions in after this period are, what are your key priorities for the future?
As you know, I worked for and with PPF, when it acquired CME in October 2020. I knew PPF for a long time, when they asked me to take care of a certain number of countries of CME, including Romania. I was very happy because, this is a fantastic group with great assets, whether in Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania obviously. Those are the three biggest markets that we have. What did I find when I started? I would say it was a bit sleepy as a group because, when they tried to sell it for a few years, and when you try to sell, people are sort of nice, but not a lot is happening, because you’re just waiting for the next owner. So when we arrived, I said to them, first think to do, let us bring new energy, let us bring new entrepreneurship and we need to try. If you do not try, you do not succeed. Sometimes you fail when you try, but at least it is great to try and succeed. So that’s the first thing. Let us be entrepreneurial, and let us bring even more energy in being in the group. The next think that I have told them, was look, we will reinvest. You saw the grid today. You know if you compare with last year, now, every day, from 5 – 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock, it’s full of original production. Whether it’s the news, whether it’s all the shows, late news at 11:30. It is the best grid as Alex said, that they had in 7 or 8 years, with new productions, new shows, from beginning to end. So that was the second thing, to reinvest. And the third thing I told them, was digital, digital, digital. So this is great, what we need to do, we need to do great, but we also need to transform PRO TV from a TV to a digital organization, that has a TV but that has also many, many other ways to show its content.
There is a whole theory that television is on a safe path to death, the consumption habit of the new generations changing rapidly. What is your perspective on the subject?
I do not think so. You know, it is what most people in the world say, but they do not say television, they say linear television. Therefore, linear television is passing viewing, where you do not have the choice, of what you watch, you do not have the choice how you want to watch it, you don’t have the choice when you want to watch it. So that sort of passive viewing is still very strong in Romania. As you know, in Romania the average viewer spends 5 h and 45 mins, in front of the screen. That is a lot of time. If you look at the rest of Europe, its 3 h and 40 mins, so Romania, in terms of viewing of linear TV will go down, we know that. However, we are not a linear TV only. We are a content producer. Everything you have seen is fantastic content. If you look everywhere in the world, linear TV, goes down, but the total amount of content consumption goes up. So people watch maybe one hour less of linear TV but they watch one hour more of video on demand. They watch other ways of watching content. Therefore, what we want to do is to make sure that we are getting stronger and stronger in it. Huge investments, we are ready to make them but this will mean that the industry will continue to grow.
About the audience of television, do you believe it’s the same as online audience?
As you know there are differences, you know it because you are in the online businesses. It is slightly younger online than it is in television. We all know that. What I am saying is what you produce, even in your business you that compared to 5 years ago you have a lot more people now able to see it. So digital opens new possibilities for people to enjoy your content. And that’s exactly what we want to do. Which means, if people miss it on PRO TV, we want them to be able to catch-up whatever they missed on other digital means , whether it’s video on demand, whether it’s other type of delayed viewing
What role does digital play in CME and in PRO TV?
If I tell you what we are doing in Czech Republic and now in Slovakia, we have relaunched 8 month ago, Voyo. In this period we growth from few tens of thousands, 150 K subscribers. The pandemic obviously played a role, but what has played a role as well is that we have added a lot of new content. SVOD, whether you go on Netflix, HBO GO etc, etc, is a way to consume content, which is less passive than linear television. We have also introduced a lot of choice. People could choose what they wanted to watch. We want to do the same in CME. First, we started with Czech Republic and Slovakia, the next market is Romania. We will basically launch in Romania digital advanced products for people to be able to watch all their content, plus a lot of new one in the local market.
Considering your role and experience with various audiences, how would you define Romanian audience? What are the similarities and the differences?
You know, I’m a Frenchman so I come from a Latin country. You are also a Latin country. If I compare it with Czech Republic who is very close to Germany, it’s very different. You could see it on the screen. We have many emotions here, lot of humour, smiles, which is what I enjoy, considering where I come from. That is how I would describe it: great audience, enjoying great emotions, humour and great quality products. That is what we are trying to do every single day. You should see, just as Alex said, all these productions. I was watching Vlad for example, the teaser…and you see how much better it is , and that again, I was mentioning investments, what we’ve done is in every production, we said OK, it is the same production, but let’s invest more so that we increase the quality. So if people would watch Vlad on PRO or if they would watch a series on HBO GO or Netflix, they say, the quality is great, cinema like.