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Czech: Prima push knocks around Nova

Mipcom 2005: Territory report

PRAGUE — It’s more like realpolitik TV than reality TV in Prague.

The nation’s headlines are filled with coverage of the inevitable launch of “Big Brother” in Czech, TV Nova’s biggest primetime juggernaut in years. But more attention — and 52% of viewers — have gone to the rival “The Chosen,” another captive contestants show produced by the market’s other terrestrial, Prima TV.

That signifies an upset: Nova was expected to dominate the 10.2 million-population Czech market following its acquisition by Ron Lauder’s Bermuda-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME) in December. Prima’s also crowing because it (and TV Nova) have scored an ad revenue windfall, thanks to the Czech broadcast licensing board, which ruled recently that the two state channels of Czech TV are forbidden from carrying advertising.

Since just four stations form the terrestrial market, that forces advertisers to go with Nova or Prima.

Nova producers admit they relied too much on “Big Brother,” the most recent of its locally produced reality shows. This allowed the competish to get an edge by hyping their version extensively and releasing it two weeks earlier.

Nova topper Petr Dvorak says although the franchise was also purchased for Markiza (CME’s Slovak terrestrial), licensing it from the Dutch originator Endemol was “expensive.”

Nova buys from most of the majors, he adds, even though this content accounts for less than 10% of its schedule. Net is often forced to buy shows it’s lukewarm on in order to get its hands on hits such “Without a Trace” or, surprisingly, Fox’s “MASH.”

But a Czech version of “Wife Swap” is also winning sizable auds for Nova, and its “Superstar” talent search was, until “Big Brother” launched, required Sunday viewing for millions.

Prima, meanwhile, based on its first primetime ratings trump over Nova, is a likely acquisition target. And if a party with pockets as deep as CME’s picks it up (many speculate News Corp. is a suitor), viewers may see the reality TV of the highest level.

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