It took Keshet 24 years on Israeli airwaves to earn its own 24/7 channel, and it took Keshet CEO Avi Nir an additional 100 days after its move to finally breathe a sigh of relief.
On Nov. 1, in one of the biggest-ever shakeups of Israeli television history, Keshet and its fellow concessionaire Reshet began operating their own separate 24/7 channels after years of sharing airtime on Israel’s Channel 2.
To international bystanders, Keshet, competing against its rival in every time slot for the first time in its history, should have had nothing to sweat. The company has phenomenal global clout, a wide-ranging catalog of formats and a much-discussed reputation for playing the odds and winning. On the global stage, Keshet may be a triumphant David, but in Israel it is a much-revered Goliath. The stakes, this time around, were different.
Keshet and Reshet both have blockbusters on Israeli TV. Keshet has garnered cult followings at home for “Hatufim” (“Prisoners of War,” the predecessor to “Homeland”), spy thriller “Kfulim” (“False Flag”), which was purchased for global audiences by Fox Intl. and streamed on Hulu for viewers in the U.S.; for its interactive, fourth-wall-busting singing competition “HaKochav HaBa” (“Rising Star” on ABC in the U.S. and in more than a dozen other countries) and “Eretz Nehederet,” its scathing, “Saturday Night Live”-esque sketch comedy show.
But where Keshet has cornered the market on content with an edge, it’s Reshet that owns the blockbusters. Israel’s versions of “The Amazing Race,” “X Factor,” “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “Big Brother” are all Reshet’s domains. Nir, who is notorious for refusing to even acknowledge his laurels, says for three months he was concerned Keshet would suffer when pitted against traditional crowd-pleasers, but he also couldn’t turn down the challenge.
“We looked at the move both with anxiety but also as a great opportunity, because it demanded of us that we compete with our own content,” Nir says. “And for us it wasn’t just about competing and prevailing in the ratings, but also, would we come up at the end of the day with something new? Would we break new ground? Winning the ratings is nice, but this question is the Keshet ethos.”
He wanted to make sure his content stayed as sharp as ever, and that he didn’t take any shortcuts. So he put “Rising Star” on the air opposite “X Factor,” and then he waited.
“It was very challenging knowing that our own ‘Rising Star’ would face one of the biggest formats in the world, which is ‘X-Factor,’” he says. “But you can see the results in the rating charts. They are overwhelming and they speak for themselves. We believed in the show, and it turns out it’s having one of its best seasons ever.”
Surveys and ratings were released 100 days after the move.
Keshet’s new home on Channel 12 led the market share in every way possible: commercially, on primetime, in the news, on late night, on Fridays, on the top 10 shows, and in every single slot from noon to 2 am. Keshet led the primetime average by 20-23, with a 14% lead over Reshet’s Channel 11 and 119% over Channel 10, the only other major competitor. Broadcast viewership share was up, reaching 56.2%, an all-time high.
To Nir’s surprise — if no one else’s — Keshet had done what it does best: win.