Territory report: Belgium

Belgian broadcasters play with home advantage

BRUSSELS — Belgian TV acquisitions budgets could change considerably this year as the launch this fall of private channel TV3 will heighten competition in the local market.

Unfortunately for American suppliers, this battle for auds comes at a time when U.S. fare is falling farther down the list of favorite acquisitions among Belgian TV buyers.

“Acquisitions are being squeezed further out of the primetime schedules, and are now aired mainly in afternoon or weekend slots,” says Frans Huybrechts, head of acquisitions at Flemish station VRT. “The top shows on our commercial channel are locally produced comedies and dramas.”

Belgian viewers continue to show a particular preference for homegrown fare, with Huybrechts noting that VRT airs around 75% local product, with the 25% of imports coming mainly from Britain.

Foreign product fares better in Belgium’s Francophone Wallonia region. But even here, local product is king.

With that local edge, output deals that forced unwanted programming on buyers are on their way out. Over the last couple of years, increasing broadcaster demand for flexibility has prompted major foreign suppliers to introduce an alternative system.

“Volume-based deals are the big thing today,” says Georges Jetter, who buys for pubcaster RTBF. “I expect we’re going to see a hell of a lot more competition in the market as a result.”

TV homes:3.9 million

Cable homes:3.8 million

Satellite homes:450,000

Local programming:68%

Top show:Tv1’s cop drama “Flikken” (19%)

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