BUDAPEST — RTL Klub, the newish network owned by CLT and Ufa, has changed its program lineup and management team in a bid to beat out Hungarian market leader TV2 — which is majority owned by Scandinavian Broadcasting System, which in turn is minority owned by Disney.
The RTL moves underscore the cutthroat competition gripping Hungary’s 6-month-old commercial TV industry.
After trailing TV2 and state network Magyar Televizio 1 for months, RTL Klub is gaining ratings and strength. Analysts credit RTL’s unconventional decision to air German programs and popular movies in key primetime slots as the chief reason for its newfound success.
More and better movies may be on the way. The network just announced sealing multiyear output deals with Disney and Warner Bros., which will give RTL Klub access to series and films.
RTL also upset the balance of power in the Hungarian market by acquiring the fifth year of “ER,” which had been the mainstay of MTV1’s lineup. Pubcaster MTV1 has begun a slow descent in the ratings in recent months in the face of intense competition from its commercial rivals.
“We believe we can be No. 1 in the (Hungarian) market in 18 months to two years,” said RTL Klub rep Dirk Gerkens. “We’re convinced it’s just a matter of time.”
Klub is replacing network managing director John Harrington with a Hungarian CEO. Harrington earned the respect of local broadcasters by beating out U.S.-owned media investor Central European Media Enterprises in bidding for one of two national frequencies that were put on the auction block last year.
According to AGB data for March 1998 for viewers between 18-49, RTL Klub had a 23.4% share. First was SBS’ TV2 (31%); MTV1 was third with an 18.5% slice of viewership.