Interview with Christoph Mainusch, Co-CEO of Central European Media Enterprises

September 06, 2017

Source: ceetv.net

CME Co-CEO Mainusch: We remain focused on deleveraging 

CME Co-CEO Christoph Mainusch and Yako Molhov discuss the latest developments at the biggest broadcasting group in the CEE region in this exclusive interview for CEETV.

Mr. Mainusch, we are nearly in the fourth quarter of 2017 now. Has 2017 been successful for CME, both in terms of viewership and business-wise? What are your expectations for the rest of the year?

We have been very successful so far in 2017, building on our momentum from the past several years.  Our local teams in each country have shown how tuned in they are to their markets, improving our audience share nearly everywhere we operate.  We have also been successful in growing the carriage and subscription fees as an important element of our diversification strategy.  And with the strength of the economies in our footprint, this all has given us the confidence we have for a very positive 2017 and beyond.

What have been your most successful projects in the different territories this year? Have you increased your investment in content in 2017 and what were the results?

Each territory is different, and our local teams determine what programs to offer to their respective audiences. But there are many things in common across our markets and one of them is the importance of high quality local productions, which have increased in volumes and quality significantly comparing to the previous years. Last but not least, being a group means that the teams learn from each other and closely cooperate. One example of our most successful projects is the reality and entertainment show Your Face Sounds Familiar, which we have rolled out in four territories. We continue to invest in local productions everywhere because it is important that we have the most popular formats produced in the highest quality possible.

What are your programming highlights for the fall season for your TV channels in the territories you operate in?

We saw a very successful launch of One Born Every Minute in the Czech Republic and we will broadcast another season of Your Face Sounds Familiar as previously mentioned. We will launch the Voice in Romania, Strictly Come Dancing in Slovakia, The Farm in Bulgaria, and introduce seven new local fiction series across all markets in the coming season.

You seem to be buying lots of formats for more than one territory: Survivor, Hollywood Game Night, The Farm, etc. Is this the new strategy of CME? Does this make the job of your group programming team easier and what other formats have you acquired as part of such package deals?

The top format brands obviously work in many countries. Following the decisions of our local content teams, we acquire those formats jointly. The production for each title, however, is done separately for the respective market.

The most important news regarding CME this year was the selling of your Croatian and Slovenian operations. What was the main reason for this decision and why did you choose these two markets in particular?

Let me start by saying what it was not about. It was not because we think TV is a declining business, actually quite the contrary.  And it was not about our teams in those countries, where again the reality is quite the opposite. They have established themselves as titans of their TV industry, and their production and broadcast expertise was valued by the buyer.  Our decision was motivated solely by our drive to improve the financial position of CME.

Are you planning to sell operations in other countries in the future? Have you been approached by local or international players for bTV? There have been numerous rumours and speculations on that matter in Bulgaria.

We do not comment on rumours. During our earnings call in late July, following the announced sale of our operations in Croatia and Slovenia, we emphasized that we remain very optimistic about the future of television in CEE, and said we had no plans to sell additional stations.

Do you plan any acquisitions in the region?

We have been very focused on deleveraging over the last several years, and that will continue for at least the next 18 months.  Needless to say, we invest in our existing businesses to stay two steps ahead of our competition and solidify our status as a trendsetter in the region.  We would look at opportunities that might complement our television and digital offerings, but we primarily expect to use cash to improve our financial position.

You now have operations in the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria. In all of these countries your business is headed by a foreigner. Is this a coincidence or a strategy that you follow?

As highlighted already, we think a big driver of our success is the credentials of our local teams in each country, and their close cooperation with each other. Our strategy is to build the best local teams in each country, with the right skillsets irrespective of their nationality.

The Bulgarian TV market remains split between two peoplemeter providers: Nielsen Admosphere and GARB. What is CME's position on this and are you working to establish a single audience measurement provider with your local management?

We have always been and always will be strong supporters of a single measurement system. We believe in one currency in a market. We think the motivation for the introduction of a second system by our competition is clear. We continue to work toward a solution to this situation with the whole industry, and believe that any potential solution requires the use of an audited system, which is currently only the case with the system we use, GARB.

You have significant revenues from distribution in Romania and Bulgaria where cable penetration has been traditionally high. This year you changed your strategy in Slovakia as well, opting out of free DVB-T. In the Czech Republic DVB-T has been very popular, do you plan any changes in your distribution strategy as well in the near future?

DVB-T is an outdated technology and it is uneconomic.  In the Czech Republic, for example, we work with cable, satellite and IPTV operators to provide ways that the TV audience can access our full product offering, as well as HD versions of all our channels.  As there are a lot of great features for subscribers of these platforms, we believe that more people will realize the benefits of those platforms and transition away from DTT.

What are CME’s plans for digital expansion? Is the digital market attractive for CME?

CME’s core business is to make its premium content available to all platforms at any time. We are the number one in all territories in TV broadcasting and we see high consumption of our brands in streaming, catch up, and on our VOD platforms. Further digital expansion is on the top of our agenda, while maintaining our leading position in linear TV at the same time.

How do you assess the performance of VOYO and what are your plans for this service? Will you invest in content specially produced for that platform?

VOYO is one of our important digital pillars, providing full access to our library of local productions. It continues to be one of the most popular such services in each of our countries and makes it possible for our audience to have the TV Everywhere experience when that is important to them.

Have you planned the launch of new niche channels in CEE? Recently you announced the rebranding of Pro TV's channels - are you preparing any other changes for your portfolio of niche channels in the different territories?

The rebranding in the Czech Republic earlier this year, and now recently launched in Romania, has aligned all of our niche channels in those countries under the umbrella of the main channel brand and corporate identity, which we think helps to improve awareness and makes it easier for the audience to know where to find the content they want to watch.

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