Territory Report: Belgium

BRUSSELS — The pressure will be on for Belgian buyers at Mipcom as they try to find the shows that will set them apart in a battle for a small, fragmented audience.

With French-language pubcaster RTBF seeming to have fallen flat on its face in its spring relaunch, commercial broadcaster RTL-TVi could be the one to watch. It needs new programming to fill its burgeoning stable of nets, and is keen for more of the same reality and U.S. fare that has done well so far on its new youth channel Plug TV — “Pop Idol,” “The Bachelor,” “South Park” and “The X-Files.” (MTV’s “Jackass” flopped.)

Another French-lingo net, AB Group, will soon have another sked to fill — that of youth net AB 5.

The relaunch of Canal Plus Belgique in October (as BeTV) will up the ante even further.

Reality TV is doing well in the Flemish-speaking part of the country, with “Extreme Makeover” and “Temptation Island” scoring with auds on VT4, and the Flemish version of “Joe Millionaire” wooing viewers on VTM.

Another quirky hit for VTM is “The Pfaffs,” an “Osbournes”-style reality show featuring the family of a former Belgian soccer player, now in its third season.

It could be the last of its kind for a while. VTM buyer Luc Janssens says, “We are moving away from ‘Big Brother’-style reality shows now in favor of those with a more sociological focus, like ‘Wife Swap.’ ”

There could be major changes in 2005 if cabler Telenet and former monopoly telco Belgacom deliver on their promise to offer interactivity; public and private programmers will have to start thinking harder about interactive formats.

Flemish pubcaster VRT, for one, has already said it plans to spend big on such tech offerings.

Over the summer, VRT ran digital sports channel Sporza, mainly featuring tennis, the Euro 2004 soccer tournament and the Olympics.

“We are also getting into history programming,” buyer Barbara Sybesma says. “People are more interested in that now. We’re even starting a history-themed gameshow.”

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