Czech Republic: Counterprogramming creates booming biz, with ad rates on the rise

The Czech television market has rarely been in such good shape.

Business grew by 3%, or 17.7 billion crowns, in 2005 and the country’s two terrestrials are now poised to raise ad rates dramatically. Both also expect a tidy windfall from a regulatory ban on commercials for pubcaster Czech TV as it’s phased in this year.

Key to Nova’s success — it has all 10 of the Czech Republic’s top-rated shows — says program director David Stogel, is what his boss Michael Garin calls counterprogramming. Aside from news, films or one-offs (in which Nova also leads), the toppers are all original scripted dramas, some of which go up against reality show-based fare on competing terrestrial Prima TV.

Prima beat Nova for the first time last fall with “Big Brother” knockoff “The Chosen” — it led Nova’s authentic “Big Brother,” in fact, an expensive franchise that won’t be returning “any time soon,” says Stogel — but Nova has pulled way out front with shows such as “Living Space.” The character-driven neighborhood drama has scored top series with 46% aud share or 2.2 million viewers, not bad in a country of 10.2 million.

Nova’s “Practice in the Rose Garden,” a serial set in a doctor’s clinic, and “You Wouldn’t Believe It,” which revives a formula from before the 1989 Velvet Revolution that dramatizes real-life tales submitted by auds, follow close behind.

Prima topper Martin Dvorak is not conceding defeat, having just signed the station’s biggest-ever deal to acquire a slate of films, series and animation.

Nova hasn’t forsaken acquisitions either, with “CSI” scoring aud share of 50% in key groups and running against Prima’s second season of “The Chosen,” with “Columbo” doing surprisingly well.

But Stogel says he will be “highly selective” during Mip, perhaps eyeing docus, docu-soaps or reality-entertainment genres because the station already has one of the largest archives in Central Europe.

1. “Living Space,” TV Nova

2. “Practice in the Rose Garden,” TV Nova

3. “You Wouldn’t Believe It,” TV Nova

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