Digital growth spurs appetite for content

BUDAPEST — Conflict and truth may be the most sought-after commodities among Magyar buyers at Mipcom. They’ll be on the prowl for drama (in one-hour, half-hour and movie formats) and documentaries.

Hungary’s major broadcasters — RTL Media-controlled RTL Klub, SBS-controlled TV2, public network Magyar Televizio (MTV) and pay cabler HBO Hungary — may be tied into studio distribution contracts, but its acquisition executives admit all are on the lookout for fresh programming in the territory’s competitive broadcast environment.

Although RTL Klub controls Hungary’s ratings race with a winning share of younger viewers (the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demo), it has been locked in tight competition for viewers within the nation’s universe of 3.6 million TV households

MTV is expected to be looking for blockbuster feature films and series as part of its strategy to boost commercial-programming content. EU regulations suggest hot European-made series and films will be sought after.

Mipcom sellers should also be prepared for interest from Hungary’s crowded cable TV universe with its roster of children’s networks (Minimax), cooking (TV Paprika) and general entertainment (Viasat 3). Winning audiences with series such as “Smallville,” “Ally McBeal” and “Friends,” Hungarian cablers are sometimes within ratings striking distance of terrestrial nets.

But the big news in the region is the arrival of digital television, with more than 300 digital channels having made the scene in eastern European countries (including Hungary) over the past year.

In July, broadcaster Antenna Hungaria won a bid that included 12-year licenses to launch a DTT platform consisting of five or more television channels. Regional cable broadcaster UPC is leading Hungary’s digital revolution after previously launching DVR and HD services in many of its cable districts.

Underscoring the rapid pace of Hungary’s digital expansion, UPC, which now provides digital services to six Hungarian cities, expects to expand its reach to more areas and offer VOD in 2009 — with a full analog switch-off skedded to take place as early as 2011.

For the present, as the Hungarian digital universe expands, some digital providers are already desperate for content. In addition to documentaries and specialty programming (cooking, travel), these providers will be in the market for formats. Current-affairs formats are expected to be especially in demand.

Formats may become even more viable in Hungary after the European Commission’s recent decision to ratify Hungarian tax laws that provide for a 20% to 25% rebate for all productions shot on Hungarian soil.

TOP 3

Baratok Kozt (Among Friends) (RTL Klub)

Hirek (evening news) (RTL Klub)

Fokusz (newsmagazine) (RTL Klub)

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more