You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

54 Russian TV Channels at Risk from New Media Law

Alexey Volin (right, with Alexander Akopov) seeks to 'cleanse the market'

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Up to 54 television channels in Russia could close as a result of a new federal law that bans pay TV operators from carrying advertising, which comes into force in January.

Delegates at the St. Petersburg Intl. Media Forum, which wraps Friday, were told by Alexey Volin, Russia’s deputy minister of communications and mass media, he would welcome any closures, which had been forecast by Yana Belskaya, editor-in-chief at trade magazine Cableman. “Most of them are half-dead anyway,” Volin said. “It is about cleansing the market.”

Volin said the legislation, which also centralizes control of media buying through a single agency, had been brought in to address a crisis in the advertising market. It would consolidate the market, stop dumping of ad space, which was driving down the price of ad spots, and strengthen the pay TV subscription business, which had been undermined by cut-price operators.

Regional channels would be hit hard by the new law, said Sergey Isakov of the National Assn. of Broadcasters. “A whole class of regional cable companies will be destroyed,” he said.

Alexander Akopov, president of leading pay TV operator Amedia and co-chair of the Film and TV Producers’ Assn., applauded the government’s actions. “I love this law,” said Akopov, who has deals with most of the Hollywood majors and is also a leading producer of Russian TV shows.

He said that high-quality TV series from HBO, Showtime or Starz, like “Game of Thrones,” cost a lot of money to produce, and had to be paid for either through subscription fees or advertising. Advertising revenue was limited but more revenue could come from subscription fees. “Russia is not a poor country,” he said.

Russian pay TV earned 54 billion rubles ($1.35 billion) from subscriptions last year, according to researcher iKS-Consulting. Some 33.5 million Russian households, more than half the country, pay for premium cable and satellite channels, with 9% more Russian households signing up for subscription channels last year.

The pay TV sector has been growing steadily in the past decade, which has hit the top three free-to-air channels, all of which are controlled indirectly or directly by the government. In 2003, 58% of Russian households watched Russia’s top three channels, while only 40% do now, according to consultancy TNS. The share of households that watch cable and satellite channels has risen to 12% over the same period.

Advertising revenue for pay TV channels rose 20% last year to 4 billion rubles ($100 million), according to Russia’s Assn. of Communication Agencies, while free-to-air channels earned 152 billion rubles ($3.8 billion).

Mikhail Silin, vice-president of Assn. of Cable Television of Russia, said that it was too late to stop the law so cable channels would have to develop new business models and strategies.

“We are in a new reality now where all of us have to rethink how we do business,” he said.

More TV

  • Rupert Murdoch

    BBC Orders Documentary Series About Rupert Murdoch’s Print Empire

    The BBC has ordered “A Tabloid Empire,” a three-part documentary series about Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the British press. The series will air on BBC Two in the U.K. and examine in detail the popular press in the U.K. between 1997 and 2012, a period that takes in phone hacking and corruption but also during [...]

  • Supergirl -- "Elseworlds, Part 3" --

    'Elseworlds, Part 3' Recap: 2019 ‘Arrowverse’ Crossover Theme Revealed

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Elseworlds, Part 2,” the final part of the 2018 “Arrowverse” crossover, which aired Dec. 11. After John Deegan (Jeremy Davies) got another go at using the Book of Destiny to rewrite reality, the “Elseworlds” finale saw Barry (Grant Gustin) and Oliver (Stephan Amell) facing [...]

  • The Netflix logo is displayed at

    TV Roundup: Netflix Orders Ted Bundy Docu-Series

    In today’s TV roundup, Netflix has ordered a docu-series on serial killer Ted Bundy and “Love, Gilda” sets a premiere date on CNN FIRST LOOKS Variety has obtained an exclusive clip of “Into the Okavango,” the upcoming National Geographic film. Premiering Dec. 14 on Nat Geo, the film, six years in the making, follows a [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have like six of Leslie’s blazers in my closet, so anytime.” “Parks and Recreation” [...]

  • Liz Meriwether Lake Bell

    Lake Bell, Liz Meriwether Comedy 'Bless This Mess' Moves From Fox to ABC With Series Order

    “Bless This Mess,” the single-camera comedy co-created by Lake Bell and Elizabeth Meriwether, has been ordered to series at ABC, Variety has learned. The series had previously been in contention at Fox and is a co-production between 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios. Bell also stars in the series alongside Dax Shepard. In the series, a [...]

  • 'Get Shorty' Renewed for Season 3

    'Get Shorty' Renewed for Season 3 at Epix

    Epix has renewed “Get Shorty” for Season 3. The loose adaptation of the 1990 Elmore Leonard novel and subsequent film stars Chris O’Dowd, Ray Romano, Lidio Porto, Megan Stevenson, Sean Bridgers, and Carolyn Dodd. In the series, O’Dowd plays a hitman from Nevada who struggles to shed his criminal past after he moves to Hollywood to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content