Hungary: Reality runs dry as Magyar shoppers go the scripted route

BUDAPEST — When reality TV arrived in Hungary, many programmers thought “Big Brother” spinoffs would reign forever.

Now, however, Budapest programmers and distributors say quality scripted shows such as “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Invasion” are the future in Magyar programming.

“American shows still do extremely well here,” says Cecilia Hazai, owner of the Budapest-based TV distrib company Twin Media. “We all like to criticize American network TV, but the truth is when it comes to solid ratings, we always look to the U.S.”

“Housewives” has been an overnight boon for SBS-controlled commercial net TV2 while its only terrestrial competitor, RTL Klub, has scored with “Lost.” RTL Klub will follow up with the second season of “Lost” and “Invasion,” another American hit RTL hopes will fare well here.

But programmers aren’t ready to count reality programming out completely.

“Gyozike,” RTL Klub’s homegrown answer to “The Osbournes,” is a ratings monster showing little signs of slowing down about Hungarian musician Gyozo Gaspar’s life with his wife and two children.

In addition, RTL will air a local take on “Dancing With the Stars” to determine if this formula will work in the Magyar market. Distribs reckon the format will mirror its American success in Hungary.

“Almost every program that makes it in the U.S. will succeed here,” says Hazai.

Hungary is also investigating mobile phone programming. Hungary’s T-Mobile is reportedly sending reps to Mip to explore bringing content to the market’s cell users. Hungarian nets are also interested in earning a piece of this potentially lucrative market, since it apparently offers no direct competition (unlike cinema exhibition and DVD) and is a perfect advertising medium for their shows.

In addition, recent expansion of the Hungarian cable universe ensures a plethora of buyers for speciality programming: cooking (from Paprika TV), children’s (from Minimax), history documentaries (HBO Hungary) and soaps (Romantika).

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