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A tight race for ratings

Territory report: Portugal

LISBON — September saw the three main TV channels — SIC, TVI and pubcaster RTP1 — increasingly neck and neck, with 29%, 28% and 25% viewing shares, respectively.

“Our objective for the critical next four months,” says Manuel Fonseca, SIC’s programming director, “is to maintain and build our audience on the basis of our overall brand image of locally produced comedy programs and prestige telenovelas from Globo.”

At last year’s Mipcom, SIC renewed its exclusivity deals with Globo until 2009 and inked a two-year volume deal with Disney. In next week’s Mipcom, Fonseca’s main interest is the acquisition of feature films from the U.S. majors and comedy-driven formats.

All terrestrial broadcasters have been obliged to reduce costs over the past 24 months as TV ad revenues have fallen from a historic high of $330 million in 2000 to an estimated $280 million for 2003.

Debt-ridden pubcaster RTP has seen its revenues squeezed even further as a result of a recent government decision to cut its ad time from 7.5 minutes to six minutes per hour (12 minutes for private operators) and a ruling that the pubcaster’s ad revenues may now only be used to service its mammoth $1 billion debt.

But despite significant downsizing, including a reduction of 33% of its workforce, RTP1 has actually risen in the ratings in September.

“RTP has strengthened its position in the Portuguese TV market,” says assistant programming director Nuno Santos. “We are Portugal’s biggest purchaser of foreign programming, with a privileged relationship with Warners and are strengthening our ties with other U.S. majors, in particular MGM and Universal.”

The rising force in Portuguese television is Portugal Telecom’s TV Cabo, now received in 25% of Portuguese homes. TV Cabo’s subscription revenues already exceed total TV ad spend, thus tightening the squeeze on terrestrial broadcasters.

SIC already earns 17% of its revenues from its four cable channels (News, Radical, Gold and Woman). TVI is in negotiations with PT, and RTP has one channel (North) and two more planned.

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