Magyars take to imports

Price is major factor in selecting South American product

BUDAPEST — Latin soaps have been airing in Eastern Europe for years, but Argentine and Brazilian telenovelas have never been as popular as today.

SBS-controlled TV2, one of two commercial terrestrial networks on the Hungarian remote control, airs as many as four Latin telenovelas in afternoons, and features the Argentine soap “Wild Angel” in the 8 p.m. slot on weekdays.

“‘Wild Angel’ is a huge success for us,” says TV2’s Beata Doros. “Its success shows how popular this type of programming is in Hungary.”

Price is a big factor in the Magyar market’s preference for South American product.

U.S. shows like “NYPD Blue” also offer gritty dramas that Hungarian viewers can identify with, says Cecilia Hazai, owner of Budapest-based distributor Twin Media, the region license-holder for “Pokemon.” “But telenovelas are not as expensive and they’re proven successes.”

Buyers are also spending on children’s programming. Both “Pokemon” and the U.K. export “Teletubbies” are featured on RTL Klub. But broadcast regs limit advertising around programming blocks for kids, in turn limiting the viability of kids programming in the territory.

U.S. feature films continue to be pursued. Regulations demand a certain percentage of Euro-made product, but buyers seem to prefer studio-made blockbusters. On the flipside, U.S. sitcoms are less successful today than ever before.

“American humor is just so hard to translate,” says Hazai.

Hungary’s mainstream broadcasters (TV2, RTL Klub, and state-owned MTV) will likely be selective in their buying at Mip, looking to plug holes in schedules. But sellers may get unexpected business from new cable-sat stations on the Magyar remote control.

Viasat, owned by Scandinavia’s Modern Times Group, broadcasts general entertainment programming over Hungarian cable systems. The earlier collapse of cabler TV3, owned by U.S.-backed station group CME, convinced many insiders that Hungarian cable had become a medium for niche programming only.

Viasat is making a go of it with a lineup that includes “The Simpsons” — “programs that other Hungarian networks had passed on,” according to Hazai.

Another cable-sat network, called Satellite, features its own roster of inhouse reality shows.

Quiz formats also continue to draw audiences. The Hungarian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” is a hit on RTL Klub, and TV2 is luring viewers with a German format, “Multi-Millionaire: Now or Never.”

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