Newcomer grows on Poles

TVN to ride SBS acquisitions, programming

PRAGUE – While Poland’s three digital platforms — Canal Plus’ Cyfra Plus, UPC’s Wizja and locally owned Polsat — slug it out in a sort of real-life “Survivor” contest (local industry types generally agree that two of them will have to merge), the main event is happening back on terrestrial turf. Execs will be tuned in to the results of TVN, the second-place commercial broadcaster that recently joined the growing stable of SBS channels.

TVN spent the summer losing audience share — which management ascribed to an annual seasonal effect — but that is expected to change as it takes advantage of SBS’ acquisitions and programming muscle.

TVN is already enjoying an edge on some pickups, such as reality format “The Mole,” which it introduces this season.

“Because we are a reality-oriented station, programming based on true-story films does especially well,” says Dariusz Gasiorowski, TVN’s deputy head of acquisitions.

An inhouse program, comparable to NBC’s “Dateline” has space for foreign docu input. However, sitcoms are not for us, Gasiorowski says: “Poland does its own better.”

The new TVN is forcing other Polish broadcasters to stay on their toes.

As one rival exec admits, “We expect the SBS connection to affect the other channels’ programming.”

The TV sector is already changing. The country’s commercial giant, Polsat, is expanding its digital platform as well as international growth. In addition to its flagship station, it acquired a smaller Polish station, TV4, and has stakes in three in the Baltics. With an eye on becoming a regional power, Polsat expects to move into the Ukraine next.

Piotr Fajks, Polsat’s head of acquisitions, buys some regional territory rights, but says he keeps the stations’ differences in mind. He expects to see reality and gameshows dominate Mipcom, and will be seeking “edgier material for TV4 and trying to move it forward.”

Pubcaster TVP sees the newly charged SBS net TVN as a stronger competitor in the future. TVP’s own plans for thematic-channel launches on Cyfra Plus digital platform (a partnership with Canal Plus), have been put on hold until there’s a greenlight from the government.

Meanwhile, says Slawomir Cyra, TVP’s manager of acquisitions, the pubcaster tries to offer fare that is different from what is found on commercial channels. With most of the choice format shows already snapped up by commercial rivals, that means feature films and TV movies as well as documentaries and kids shows.

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