BY Georgi R. Chakarov
became the leading Hungarian broadcaster in 2022, scoring its highest fall ratings in 20 years – a good reason to have a conversation with CEO Pavel Stanchev about the huge success of the company on the broadcasting and digital front during the past 12 months.
In this exclusive interview with CEETV’s Georgi R. Chakarov, TV2’s CEO also revealed some of the plans for next year meant to keep up the momentum with new shows, refreshed channels and the first subscription video service under the TV2 brand.
Pavel Stanchev, CEO of Hungary
Pavel, 2022 is coming to an end and it will remain in the history of TV2 as one of its most successful years. Could you sum up the main achievements for the past 12 months?
Hi, Georgi, yes, we are happy to report several achieved milestones in the outgoing 2022 which marked TV2’s 25th birthday: TV2 channel and TV2 Group are the strong market leaders in all demos so far in terms of all day. TV2 Group leads the primetime too, but, most importantly, TV2 wins the primetime this fall season in both 18-49 and 18-59, not to mention 4+. A success we haven’t seen since 20 years! In the first week of December this lead represents the hefty 4,6 percentage points vs. RTL. In digital TV2Play also wins the year with several peaks of over 1 million video views per day, our users are now over 1.2 million.
TV2 has building momentum ever since you arrived at the CEO post, but the ratings really “exploded” this fall. To what do you attribute this success?
In the last three and a half years we remained focused on our core business and looked for the right content strategy for the primetime, with a particular focus on the Fall where our clients are most in need of GRPs. With my team we selected the right programs and paid particular attention to the production and post-production execution. All our castings turned out to be extremely appealing and magnetic to the Hungarian audiences. Our news and infotainment programs got closer to the people. Our PR and marketing were fantastic with lots of cross-promotions and exchanges between the different shows. To be honest, the results coming out this Fall surpassed even our expectations. A huge thanks to all who contributed and who didn’t stop to believe that this is possible. One thing which also helped was that we stopped watching what the competition is doing, but worked on improving our own channels. It was a hard work, but also lots of fun.
You brought a number of original (Love or Money) and revived formats (The Bachelor). Are you satisfied with their results, and will they continue with new seasons?
The success of formats that were judged passed or dead, like The Bachelor, The Farm or Wheel of Fortune go in line with what I said. With the right execution all becomes possible. The viewers are hungry for great free-to-air content and these are big classics. Money or Love was our daily primetime reality on SuperTV2, our secondary general entertainment channel which celebrated its 10th anniversary this Fall. We are satisfied with the result, which was around 3% and made the channel many times leader in its league.
What are your plans for Spring 2023?
In content we will continue building on the success of our big hits, but will also bring some new formats for the channel, such as Let’s Make a Deal, Family Feud and the daily series Hazatalalsz (Pure Love). In the first quarter, we will launch our first subscription service, TV2PlayZero, where the subscribers can enjoy our videos without being interrupted by advertising. We will continue rebranding our linear channels to enhance the TV2 brand. The next one will be our women targeted channel Fem3 which will become TV2 Klub.
Are you planning to further build up your partnership with Acun Medya?
Acun Ilicali is one of the most talented persons in the television industry worldwide. We are honored to be his partners in Hungary and in Slovenia and, yes, our amazing journey together will continue.
You tend to produce less fiction compared to main rival RTL. What is the reason for this?
In fiction we took a cautious approach and the results this year proved us right. This genre became extremely challenging for broadcasters around Europe, as the American SVOD streamers are spending tens of billions of dollars in series productions and created high viewers expectation when it comes to the production value of the series which are offered. With the series it became a bit like with the football – everybody is watching and everybody thinks he can produce. But it is a risky exercise. We gathered now a really experienced team with some of the best Hungarian script and production professionals. Hazatalalsz (Pure Love) is promising. In 2023 we will also return with a new season of Pepe’s Bar which won its slot this year.
You recently bought some formats from Croatia and Serbia. Are you looking to adapt other hits from the region?
Hazatalalsz (Pure Love) is a format developed by our friends at Nova TV Croatia. Parharc, a Serbian format, will return with a new season, produced by Kristof Rubin and Free Monkeys.
Speaking of acquisitions, TV2 has been dominating the daytime ratings thanks to hits coming from Turkey and Latin America. What were some of your biggest hits in that respect in 2022?
As access prime is an important daypart in collecting and keeping viewers for primetime, we have been paying attention to select the most popular afternoon series for years. In the first eleven months this year TV2 achieved average 12.7% share between 16.00-18.00 on weekdays and absolutely dominated the market. The highest season share was delivered by the Turkish series Mrs. Fazilet and Her Daughters with an average of 13.7%.
Has the increase in delivered ratings resulted in an increase of ad revenues for TV2? Lots of companies in the region are increasing their ad rates for 2023 with double digits. What will be TV2’s policy for next year?
Absolutely. Already in 2022, we changed the price curve’s direction upwards. The linear TV advertising will become more and more valued. Many multinational players are now turning their focus towards digital which makes our airtime more unique and demanded by the advertisers. Also, advertisers perfectly know that in times of economic turmoil, TV is the safe heaven.
The (suspension of the) advertising tax remains a hot issue in Hungary. What is TV2’s position on that matter?
This topic is not currently on the table, as the government kept the 0 tax. My personal opinion is that, to support the local movie and TV industry, should be taxed on their income these channels, streamers and internet companies who don’t invest in local production, but retrieve advertising revenues from the market.
TV2Play also enjoyed huge success this year. What were the main drivers behind it and what will be your strategy for growth next year?
TV2Play became this year the leading video OTT service on the market. The main drivers are the most popular shows of TV2 and TV2Play’s editorial strategy to publish immediately after the linear broadcast many short and viral videos from the content, including exclusive talk shows and content. A great example in that respect was Dancing with the Stars. And part of our strategy is to further develop our distribution by adding additional streams.
How do you estimate TV2’s performance on the digital market and where do you see new possibilities?
In the digital area, we took a realistic approach. We looked at our strengths and roots of a leading free-to-air content creator and marketer, and started building up on them. The first step was TV2Play, huge success, financial profitability reached in year 1. Now comes the second level, TV2PlayZero, the ad-light service. We developed also TV2PlayPremium for our distribution partners. We are building a house starting from the foundations and not from the roof top. I hope time will come to offer also a premium SVOD tier, if the content and the prices are right. In my 30 years of career I never saw a free-to-air operator succeeding in Pay-TV/SVOD and vice versa. We stay cautious, especially in the current unclear economic environment. We are not in the business of selling popcorn or fairy tales to banks and investors, but to deliver profits. Now lots of “Netflixes” are popping up around like mushrooms, but their subscriber numbers remain confidential.
RTL recently revamped their streaming service under the RTL+ brand. Are you also planning to invest more in this segment (own productions, acquisitions, sports rights)? In your opinion, which model of monetization is more suited for the Hungarian market (AVOD, SVOD, TVOD)?
As I said earlier, I don’t exclude it, but a premium SVOD requires a totally different set of content and I am not sure that it could be monetized sufficiently. We are constantly looking at it, but we are extremely realistic.
The Pay TV market remains strong in Hungary. Are you satisfied with the relationship with the players in this segment? Do you plan to offer new services thru them, like HbbTV, for example?
Through our 14-channel portfolio we built a close relationship with all the telecom and cable operators in Hungary. Our distribution revenue is growing and makes us less exposed to the advertising market fluctuations. We are open to work with them on implementing any new service if they require it.