Reality fans go ‘Bar’ hopping

Hungary takes to local version of 'Big Brother'

BUDAPEST — Reality TV continues its worldwide domination, with Hungary the latest to fall under its sway.

Viewers have taken to “Bar,” a local version of “Big Brother,” and the American-made “Survivor” as if the genre were their own.

More importantly, the reality revolution is fueling the fortunes of hungry Hungarian startup cable stations, which until now have languished on the fringes of the terrestrial-dominated Magyar TV market.

“Reality TV has become very big in this market,” says Cecilia Hazai, owner of TV distribution company Twin Media. “It may even replace South American soap operas as the No. 1 genre.”

Hungarian cabler ProSat has reportedly secured the rights to “Temptation Island,” and cable startup Viasat 3 is airing the U.S. version of “Survivor.”

But the series that has dominated remote controls is “Bar,” which has just finished its first run on Viasat 3.

Initial “Bar” segs featured 11 young competitors who worked in a cafe during the day and lived together in an apartment. Cameras recorded their conflicts, other dramas and romances during the 10-week run, which also ran over the Internet and drew 2.6 million visitors during the show’s run.

Competitors were voted from the flat over the course of the run. The winner received the equivalent of $18,000 in prize money.

Launched May 12, the Swedish-developed “Bar” quickly became a hit for Viasat 3, which itself was launched last December by the Swedish Modern Times Group.

“Bar” boasted a 12.6% share of the lucrative 18-to-39 age group, and a 2% rating — handsome results for a cabler that is available to only 40% of the territory’s 3.7 million TV households.

Before “Bar,” Viasat 3 could only dredge up ratings of 1% for its top programs and market shares of less than 10% for any demographic group.

” ‘Bar’ has helped brand Viasat 3 as a channel targeting young men,” says general manager Ferenc Partos. “And what’s really important for us is that we’ve managed to reach a target group others have failed to reach.”

“Bar,” the costliest production on Hungarian TV, according to Partos, was a gamble that paid off.

Although a cabler, Viasat 3 is receiving unprecedented respect from advertisers and media agencies.

Partos states that “Bar’s” success has catapulted his network into the ratings realm of Hungary’s top terrestrial networks — SBS-controlled TV2, and CLT/Ufa-controlled RTL Klub.