Local formats go the distance


MOSCOW — The Russian TV market is in a format frenzy.

And the commitments are getting longer all the time as well. Nightly doses of serial fare tend to start at 50 episodes and run up to as much as 200, as was the case with last season’s megahit — “Don’t Be Born Beautiful” — for entertainment web CTC, the Russian adaptation of Colombian-originated global phenom “Yo Soy Betty, la Fea.” Sudser came through Sony after rescripting by some Sony players and local scribes for the local market.

Completion of that series even impacted CTC’s stock price (CTC noted the ratings drop after the show’s conclusion in its Nasdaq filings), though its latest offering, locally originated “Cadets,” is doing more than respectably on ratings in its second season.

Meanwhile, last month’s openers included “Tatiana’s Day” (initially skedded at 50 episodes) on Channel One, as well as Russian takes on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “L&O: SVU” for NTV.

“The winners will be those who provide volume, in telenovelas and sitcoms,” says managing director Patrick Nebout of Zodiak Vostok, the local branch of Scandi Zodiak TV.

Since opening its Moscow office at the start of this year, Zodiak has been selling family-oriented reality formats like “Stars on Stage” not only to Russia but also to Ukraine, Belarus and even tiny Armenia down in the Caucasus.

“The market is becoming tougher for outside formats to come to Russia,” Nebout says. “Original Russian projects are being sold healthily to local channels.”

That’s not a big problem for Zodiak, however, given that it holds a majority stake in No. 3 local TV producer TeleAlliance. Other top production outfits are pioneer AMedia, which produced the local “Don’t Be Born Beautiful” for CTC as well as “Tatiana’s Day,” and upstart Russian World Studios.

The latter saw a multiepisode prison drama consigned to latenight slots for NTV (due to reported political pressure), before pressing ahead with a hospital drama for the same channel (also not a particularly optimistic topic given local realities).

Still, the efforts are a sign production infrastructure has improved.

Stations like Channel One and pubcaster Rossiya may score kudos — and great opening ratings — with classic adaptations like “Master and Margarita” from Mikhail Bulgakov or “The Idiot” from Dostoyevsky. The preferred length for such product is now four to 12 episodes, says Aram Movsesyan, production topper at local facility Central Partnership. It’s no surprise that outfit has a multiseries project in development as well.

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