Leading the Change - All Media Latvia
Less than a year ago, Providence Equity Partners closed the acquisition of MTG’s media assets in the Baltics, announcing plans for major investments with a focus on digital development. The deal gave the new owners control over the leading media companies in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were united under the new brand All Media Baltics (AMB). The name of the new holding clearly reflects its ambition – leadership in all media segments.
The domination of flagship channels TV3 in each of the three countries will be used as a basis to create a new digital platform which is set to revolutionize the Baltic media market, offering unlimited opportunities in terms of content and technological solutions. TVBIZZ Magazine talked to Baiba Zūzena, CEO All Media Latvia, Priit Leito, CEO All Media Estonia, and Laura Blaževičiūtė, CEO All Media Lithuania, about the new strategy and ongoing transformation of their companies following the change of ownership.
CEETV publishes today the interview with Baiba Zūzena, CEO All Media Latvia
Baiba, what has changed at your company following last year’s ownership change?
Eight months have passed since global asset management company Providence Equity Partners (Providence) acquired the Modern Times Group (MTG) businesses in the Baltics, Already at the end of last year, we began implementing Providence’s over 10 million euro investment program aiming to create a completely new entertainment experience for Latvia’s demanding audience. Our offer and our promise are to deliver the most demanded local and international content – from news and local shiny floor shows to the latest blockbusters from Hollywood till Russia – on the time, device and service most convenient for the audience. To deliver the promise, a unified digital platform for the Baltics is being developed. The second most important investment program project, which we are launching is TV signal and content production in HD quality. Our strategic vision is to become a technologically advanced entertainment leader in Latvia and the Baltics, we want to become the first choice of entertainment content for any user in our region. Our current digital footprint is very strong already with infotainment portal skaties.lv and leading local AVOD platform TVPlay.lv, and we continue the company transformation to become a true leader in digital entertainment and will launch the new platform already this year.
All Media Baltics remains the sole commercial player of large scale on the Latvian market. Is this an advantage or does it create more problems than it seems?
For seven years already, All Media Baltics (AMB) has been the leading media group in Latvia. Being a leader, you must anticipate changes in customer behavior before the competitors do, and timely react to these changes by offering customers new formats. We have been successful so far, and the international media industry experience of the group’s investor, combined with substantial investments in technology, gives us good reason to believe that we will continue to be successful in the future.
At the same time, the acquisition of MTG’s business in the Baltics brought along new regulations from the Latvian Competition Council’s for AMB in Latvia but we can live with that. We are confident that the business strategy– to invest in modern, competitive digital products and HD transmission quality combined with the best in class locally produced content offering – will ensure we continue to serve the needs of the most demanding content users as well as advertisers and other partners.
Actually, your biggest competitors are the Russian-language channels. Latvia is currently preparing legislation to limit Russian content on TV. What is your view on this?
In the digital era, people in fact have unlimited opportunities to use any content they want, almost all the linear TV content can also be found on the Internet, so we do not support restrictions and bans. We believe that the only way to counter our neighbor country’s propaganda is through improving media literacy and strong local content offering. If market conditions remain stable and allow both public and commercial media to generate more content interesting to Latvian viewers, society’s self-esteem and people’s sense of belonging to the nation will enhance.
Are you satisfied with the first half of 2018 and what were the main hits for TV3 and LNT during the spring season?
It has been an exciting spring season with a lot of novelties for our viewers. During the first five months of the year, our TV audience was 1.7 million – almost the entire population of Latvia. It is therefore safe to say that TV3 and LNT are the most popular TV channels in the country. We offered a broad range of infotainment content combined with various entertainment formats, from reality shows and local series to shows like The Lyrics Board and Your Face Sounds Familiar.
This year marks two important anniversaries – Latvia’s centenary and the 20th birthday of TV3. We are celebrating together with our viewers, offering them wide range of entertainment as well as a look into pressing issues for Latvian society, for instance, labor shortages, remigration, social problems aggravated by the ageing population of Latvia. These issues prompt us to develop new formats and find new narratives within our broad news and infotainment programs. CSR has always been important for our group – as a medium, we feel a great responsibility and consider it our duty to be engaged in a dialog with society about important matters in our lives. So, for over 10 years, we have been organizing charity campaigns on our channels to help those in need and it is safe to say that we, together with society, are building a better Latvia. This past spring has also been special as we launched a new social responsibility initiative promoting children’s safety, Svešu bērnu nav (There Are No Strange Children), in order to educate and encourage people to get involved in kids safety on a very practical level.
The TV ad spend increased in 2017. What is the current situation on the advertising market? How big is the digital threat for the TV players in Latvia?
Overall, Latvia’s advertising market is stagnating and growth in 2017 amounted to just 4% as compared to 2016. According to the Advertising Association of Latvia, the TV segment remained in the lead last year, worth a total of 34.27 million euros. Online advertising placed second –18.15 million. The amount of spot advertising was steady in 2017, which proves the efficiency of TV commercials in reaching out to a wide audience.
For the past couple of years, we have been observing a phenomenon that could be described as “content explosion”. It means that consumer behavior, or the way they consume content, is determined by technological development. New technology offers new ways to ensure content availability anytime, anywhere, on any device, and in very high quality. This in turn leads to consumption of unlimited amounts of content. That trend in content consumption strongly correlates with the structure of the advertising market, where the segment of digital and various integrated advertising solutions has been growing at the expense of TV advertising. The strongest growth is observed in the digital environment, and it is important to point out that, besides a number of strong local digital resources, significant amounts are being invested in international giants like Facebook, YouTube, Google. As a result, the local media has to compete not just with other local media, but also with big international players.
How far are you in the process of launching your new digital platform? What should we expect?
Very soon, already at the end of the summer, we will be able to say that a new era has begun in the Baltic media and entertainment industry. After the launch of the new digital platform AM Baltics will change the ecosystem of the entertainment industry, offering unlimited opportunities in terms of both content formats and technological solutions. The platform’s content will be offered both free of charge and as a subscription service, apps will make platform’s content available on ALL screens – from mobile devices to the large TV screens, partnerships will ensure individualized content offers. We dare to believe that there are no analogs of our platform anywhere in Europe, definitely not in the Baltic region.
What will be your content strategy for the rest of 2018? What are the new projects your teams are working on currently?
Captivating, honest, engaging narrative is the main driving force in the infotainment and entertainment content development. And that is the cornerstone of our content strategy – engaging our viewers with stories on how to bring positive change to the environment we live in, combined with a wide entertainment offering – quality shows featuring local and international stars, newest as well as all-time greatest films, most popular local and international series, live sports, or in other terms – everything our demanding viewer needs to fulfill his/her need for entertainment.
The fall season on TV3 will see the return of the internationally-acclaimed show The X Factor on TV3 – the show’s second season in Latvia will get under way in September. The first season achieved record ratings and became immensely popular with viewers in Latvia. We will also start several new projects in the fall, including the local version of Big Star’s Little Star, giving viewers a chance to see celebrities through children’s eyes. The LNT channel will bring on series of events marking Latvia’s 100th anniversary, which we will celebrate on November 18. Finally, we will close the year with the charity campaign Eņģeļi pār Latviju (Angels Over Latvia), which has by now become an integral part of the channel’s Christmas program.
All interviews at www.tvbizzmagazine.com