Belgian pubcaster BRTN is planning a major programming restructure aimed at taking back a sizable chunk of the market share seized by its only Flemish competitor, private commercial station VTM.

The reorganization aims to revamp BRTN along the lines of the BBC. TV-1 will aim for wide commercial appeal with more comedy, sitcoms and American programs.

TV-2 will offer sports, drama, art and cultural shows and other high-brow fare, according to BRTN programming analyst Pieter Goyvaerts.

Head-to-head

The public channel is making no secret of the fact that it plans to put itself in direct competition with VTM, whose mix of U.S. fare, locally produced soaps, sitcoms and game shows has resulted in a 43% market share in the four years since its start-up in 1989.

Says Goyvaerts: “We plan to go toe-to-toe with VTM on primetime. We will attack them with more broadcasting than narrow-casting, more American comedies and more game shows.”

The restructure is expected to begin in the spring of 1994.

Recent market studies have shown that both BRTN channels, if overhauled, could increase its market share from 25% to 35% on TV-1 and from 5% to 15% on TV-2.

“Currently, TV-2 programs mainly soccer and special art shows. Unless there is a soccer game, there are very few viewers. It’s a waste of the channel,” says Goyvaerts. The station plans to move some of its drama, cultural and informational programs to TV-2 to make room for lighter fare like “Step by Step” on TV-1.

VTM seems to be more or less ignoring BRTN’s latest battle plans.

However, VTM director general Leo Neels said if BRTN does become more commercial, “One might question whether Flanders will have a public broadcaster anymore. I think the Flemish people are entitled to ask if the $ 23 million BRTN is given annually by the local government should be spent by the taxpayers for a mission that is already fulfilled by a private broadcaster (like VTM).”

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