CME buys Croatia’s Nova in East Euro play

Co. gains foothold in emerging Croatian market

BUDAPEST — U.S.-controlled broadcaster Central European Media Enterprises (CME) has acquired Croatian network Nova TV for $24 million.

Move gives CME, launched by an investment group led by cosmetics mogul Ron Lauder after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a foothold in the emerging Croatian market.

“Croatia is a young and vibrant market and a natural addition as we leverage our expertise and resources in Slovenia,” said CME chief exec Michael Garin, referring to the company’s Croatian TV networks, Pop TV and Kanal A.

CME’s buy comes at a strategic juncture for this former Yugoslav territory of 4.78 million people and 1.5 million TV households.

On April 30, RTL Group launched RTL Croatia with a competitive and dynamic program lineup that dominated ratings.

But as Croatia’s first private commercial network, Nova TV has a name and loyalty base that CME hopes to build on in order to erode RTL Croatia’s penetration in the market.

“Nova TV is a strong, established brand and we look forward to building on this success,” said Garin.

And it is an established brand for CME. Nova TV is also the name of CME’s first major Central European network, launched in 1994 in the Czech Republic. Czech Nova TV went from being a cash cow to a cautionary tale when a dispute erupted between CME and local partner Vladimir Zelezny that led to Zelezny’s virtual seizure of the network.

CME eventually won a $350 million compensation package in an arbitration court.

Meanwhile, it has shored up its regional business with networks in Slovenia, the Ukraine (Studio 1+1), Romania (PRO TV, Acasa, PRO Cinema), Slovakia (Markiza TV) and now Croatia.

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