Territory report: Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia emerges as budding TV territory

BELGRADE — Exactly a year ago, Serbia was in the throes of revolution. Today, the Yugo economy is one of the fastest-developing markets in Europe, and its TV industry is leading the charge.

Serbia has three popular state-controlled or partially state-controlled networks (RTS, RTV Politika and Studio B), four private nets (TV Pink, Kosova, BK TV and B92), and a plethora (some say thousands) of smaller commercial stations that thrive on the local level.

Still dealing with the chaos of the era of Slobodan Milosevic (awaiting trial in The Hague), programmers do not know exactly how many TV households there are in Yugoslavia, but TV penetration is high, says Aleksandar Opacic, acquisitions manager at national net B92 TV.

“Every family has a TV,” he says.

Given Yugoslavia’s population of 10 million, experts estimate penetration here almost equals that of Hungary, about 3.7 million homes. TV execs also say satellite penetration is higher than the regional average.

Kosovo Albanians (with a prewar population of 1.8 million and an estimated 400,000 TV households) used satellites to get other channels beyond Serbian state TV. Hundreds of thousands of viewers in Serbia bought dishes to get access to foreign news during the dictatorship.

With a full dial, Serb programmers are looking for foreign programming.

“Friends,” “The Simpsons” and “The X-Files” are already available on TV Pink, and B92 has just secured the rights to “South Park” and “Sex & the City.”

A contingent of Serbs are expected to be roaming Mipcom in search of foreign fodder. (Seventeen hungry Serb TV stations attended this year’s Discop program market, an East Euro meet held in Budapest in June.)

“I’ll be looking for children’s shows and sitcoms,” says Jugoslav Pantelic of Belgrade network Studio B.

The diversity elsewhere on the dial suggests every genre will be in demand, but sellers can’t expect to get top dollar from Yugo buyers — program budgets are on a par with Bosnia, or lower.

But getting into the Yugo market could bode well for future deals.

“This is virgin territory,” says Opacic. “We’re disorganized now, but a year from now things will be better.”

TV homes:3.7 million

Cable homes:1.2 million

Satellite homes:Estimated in the hundreds of thousands, particularly high in ethnic-Albanian Kosovo

Local programming:50%

Top show:“The Simpsons” on Pink TV

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