Territory Report: Czech Republic

State of flux as players chase ad dollars

As Czech TV signals switch from analog to digital over the next two years, new players are hoping to parlay that change into subscribers. Yet few observers feel the new platforms are much of a threat to traditional cinema.

Not that movie houses are doing great business. Coin has been steadily in decline for years at Czech cinemas, but distribs don’t feel any danger looming from the glitzy new digital channels and the bright future their promo teams are painting.

“We do not see the current VOD situation as a real issue or threat,” says Ivo Andrle of Czech art film distrib Aerofilms. In fact, he argues, “For the near future, we see VOD as a plus. I think VOD release can be complementary with the theatrical release — either simultaneous or delayed.”

In such cases, VOD release — which major Czech cablers such as UPC are offering as incentives, as are telecoms such as 02 — can help indie films reach narrow bands of auds who can’t find their preferred fare in the multiplex and don’t want to wait months for a DVD release, Andrle says.

Tomas Chrenek, the man behind Barrandov TV, the digital station that went live in Prague in January, has ambitious aims for market share and a strategy of targeting viewers around age 30 with unique offerings such as new film-student work.

Meanwhile, two other closely watched players, Fero Fenic’s Febio TV and Radima Parizek’s TV Pohoda, have yet to announce their broadcast start dates. More competition in the sector is inevitable — especially as pubcaster Czech TV is forbidden from earning further coin from advertising, which is expected to put as much as one-fourth of the local annual ad spend of some $625 million up for grabs.

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