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April 16, 2020 |

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Exclusive: Russia’s NTV sees acquisition price drops & selective buying

Wolf Trap

TBI has been talking to broadcasters all over the world about how they have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Today, we hear from Marina Kataya, head of sales at Russia’s NTV.

Given that the global economy was completely blindsided by the current crisis, you would be forgiven for thinking that some distributors might hike their prices to take advantage of the sudden increased demand for TV content.

But according to Marina Kataya, head of sales at the Gazprom Media-run broadcaster, that doesn’t seem to be the picture in Russia, at least.

“Actually, we are seeing quite the opposite – a 10-20% drop in prices that buyers are willing to pay and requests for extending licensing periods on the same conditions,” she says. “Many acquisition executives are facing financing cuts in this crisis and they have to stretch their budgets as far as possible. This is especially applicable to markets with smaller advertising volumes.”

Marina Kataya

Kataya suggests this behaviour could continue in the long term, with smaller purchasing budgets, coupled with a drop in original programming and increase in reruns on linear broadcasters, leading to buyers becoming more selective and targeting content packages rather than one-off series.

“At the same time,” she adds, “they might shift towards paying top prices for the hit series to keep the audience happy and loyal to avoid losing them to streamers, which have been growing steadily through the crisis.”

Kataya notes that while there is a general increase in TV viewership – “NTV’s rating nationwide jumped 20% from the first week of March and it’s up over 40% compared to the similar period last year” – the advertising market is experiencing a serious downturn.

And while linear broadcasters will be the most impacted, “since streamers derive their income from subscription and online advertising, they certainly have an advantage over the traditional TV channels.”

Increased demand for family-orientated content

As is the picture with broadcasters across the world, NTV has made efforts to acquire exercise and children’s educational content for its morning slots and is doing what it can to support and entertain viewers in self-isolation.

“The pandemic has increased the demand for long-running family-oriented content,” adds Kataya. “We have several deals in line for our chart topping crimedy procedural Shepherd; we also see the raise in demand for shorter series that have strong narrative, such as our drama Wolf Trap that is currently on air and is getting great ratings.”

She continues: “It’s important to add that there’s a demand for educational content, we’re negotiating to license our Technology Wonders docuseries that analyzes and tests different aspects of technology and how they affect our lives – perfect entertainment for the audience stuck at home. And, of course, there’s a rising demand for nature documentaries, for example, our original story about Chukotka and its fascinating life in permafrost conditions is being sold to numerous territories.”

Mask

Focus on ready-made content

The scene in Russia is no different when it comes to working around lockdown to keep shows on the air – it sometimes just takes a little innovation.

“We have to think creatively on our feet during such unusual times,” says Kataya. “So we modified the production process for some of our shows to exclude live audiences. This technique proved to be extremely successful; our number one entertainment program in Russia, Mask, which is based on the very famous format The Masked Singer, is filmed without the audience and we then add viewers at the editing stage, using the previously made episodes.”

However, while Kataya explains that although productions were halted and the focus shifted to post-production, NTV was fortunate to have big line-up of ready-made content, allowing them to continue to schedule programme premieres.

“This is an advantage of being a big player – we always have new content ready to air,” she says. “Not only that, but our catalogue provides exceptional choice of diverse projects and there’s something to surprise even the most discerning buyers.”

Kataya continues: “This is the period when we see how beneficial it is for our licensing sales process to offer such variety. It attracts the attention of many acquisition executives and translates into signing new deals with new partners and into requests to increase the number of series hours for our current clients. We are proud to say that we can meet all the demands for new projects and more hours from new and current clients.”

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