First Kyiv and Odesa, then Kharkiv: Live Holding aims for regional leadership in Ukraine, Pt.1
Under strict measures against the spread of the coronavirus Georgi R. Chakarov met with the new management of Live Holding in Kyiv. The recently (re-)started TV company aims to become a leader in the local markets with a full relaunch in March of Kyiv.Live and Odesa.Live which will be complemented by the launch of a third channel – Kharkiv.Live.
The former 1+1 Media colleagues Svitlana Paveletskaya, Dmytro Tsarenko and Viktor Berezenko now run the Institute of Cognitive Modeling which recently signed an agreement with the owners of the regional nets – the MP from Opposition Platform – For Life, Vadim Stolar, and his business partner Serhiy Turchinov, to take over the management of the new holding.
In this exclusive interview, the three managers talked openly about their strategy and plans for the channels, with the aim to create leading regional TV and digital platforms which would have an impact on the whole Ukrainian media market.
What is the story of Kyiv.Live and Odesa.Live. What will be your goals and strategy to achieve them?
Svitlana: Initially, the owner entrusted the previous team with the task to launch the Kyiv and Odesa regional channels.
It was interesting for us that there were no quantitative targets. The first team was assigned with launching - they did great, achieving the goal in the shortest possible time. Indeed, to build two channels in three months is fantastic.
But everything has a price, and here the price is the stability and longevity of this story. Our task is to make this effective, self-sufficient and long-lived.
It seems to us that now, considering all current conditions and everything that happens in the country, ideas for decentralization and a certain polarization of society, and the fact that people want to see what is happening in their region, they want to feel how they influence something, regional television provides opportunities for this on the one hand. But on the other hand, we understand that our channels will be qualitatively different from other regional ones, because the regional for us does not mean local. This means adapted to the specific conditions of a particular area. Therefore, we will have a single center in Kyiv, which will set the tone and quality and create the preconditions for scaling.
We started with forming a team in the center. We will have a single conditional corporate center that will manage the concept, content, design. If you are from Kyiv, for example, and you are going on a business trip to Odesa or Kharkiv, then you would look for this channel with the Live prefix, knowing that you will receive a good morning show, local news with a certain quality of journalism, and central programs from Kyiv. For the viewer, it will be familiar and useful at the same time, giving the opportunity to immerse in this region.
Are there any competitors in this niche?
Dmytro: First, TV viewing differs by regions. Unfortunately, being the capital, Kyiv lacks the culture of watching regional television. In Kyiv, there were several attempts to launch commercial regional TV channels, for example City (1+1 Media) and historically it so happened that in Kyiv there is a state (communal) television company TV and Radio Company Kyiv, these are perhaps the only representatives of the palette of Kyiv television in my memory.
The audience, according to all our studies, perceives all television in Kyiv the same way, without dividing the Kyiv TV channel from everything else. For a Kyiv resident, all TV channels are (local) television.
It is very difficult to compete in this lineup, because having regional opportunities, you have to stand in the same pool with large TV budgets and production, and a completely different principle of building the television industry.
There is a completely opposite situation in Odesa. The residents of the city have historically had 24 of their own regional TV companies. At the same time, it turned out that those companies used world-class content for various reasons. For example, one could turn on a local TV channel and see Avatar at 13.00.
The launch of a new TV channel for Odesa has recently become a landmark event, as the residents of Odesa received a picture of the level of a national TV channel, but at the same time with absolutely relevant content to Odesa. All content is about the city they live in - about understandable streets, houses, heroes, politicians. This is a live channel about Odesa. The uniqueness also lies in the fact that there is not a single channel more efficient than Odesa.Live. There is always breaking news.
Svitlana: And this gives them the opportunity to feel like in the capital - a reality is created for them, in which their city is in the center of everything. Given the regional peculiarity of Odesa residents, this is important for them.
Dmytro: In Kyiv we will have to air content that speaks about the whole country. The uniqueness of our channel and the difference will be that we focus on the people of Kyiv through the prism of usefulness. We are still talking about the events that are taking place in Kyiv so that local residents can take advantage of it.
Kharkiv will be the next city, where the regional agenda will certainly remain, and there will be the same scaling model as in Odesa. The next stage in the strategy is each regional channel having its own base in Kyiv, and vice versa, Kyiv will have its own full-fledged base in the regions. Thus, we will definitely produce content of much better quality than any other regional channel. Such a synergy of the holding will be very helpful.
Svitlana; Therefore, we believe that in such a system we will not have competitors for now. Regional channels will not be competitors to us, because we will provide news on a national scale, and national news channels will also quickly feel very strong competition from us. We will be able to add regional blocs of such quality to the national agenda that a bureau of one or two people cannot provide. In fact, these regional channels will be bureaux of unique quality for the national Kyiv, that is, a correspondent point of 100 people.
Dmytro: As for the organizational structure, all people work in the same structure, in the same holding. That is, Odesa residents, Kharkiv residents, Kyiv residents are all one big corporate history.
Viktor: This is a unique experience, there are no such cases in Ukraine. We will be the first to build it and this is an interesting challenge for us to implement.
Yes, but the thing is, now we are faced with this in Odesa and Kyiv, and we will for sure encounter it in Kharkiv, is the difficulty with people. In Odesa, 40 percent are people who got on television for the first time. It's cool, but only if you have the remaining 60 percent who have been working in television for a long time, who can become the core.
This is an industry-wide problem that the holdings are trying to solve. The problem with education and the fact is that TV people are not trained. This is a specific story, not only regarding people who work in the frame, but also behind the scenes - editors, cameramen, etc. Therefore, in addition to people who must necessarily be in the field locally, we centralize here.
The main focus is on news here and now. What other content will there be in the programming grid?
Svitlana: We build useful information and entertainment television. Most importantly, useful. When we arrived, we started with research and now we are forming the grid.
Viktor: The audience was blurred as the main task of the previous team was to launch the channel. The guys really did a fantastic job doing it so quickly. We equate our work more with the tasks that marathon runners face - we have to run for a long time, accordingly, the entire structure and content must be rebuilt for a different format. We are also faced with the task of stable development of the channel with no sharp spikes. We conducted a number of qualitative and quantitative studies on the audience: how viewers relate to the content, how it happens on the channel, what it feels like, and have identified the potential.
If earlier the content was designed for a younger audience, now we understand that the channel's development potential is in the older audience. For example, here is Nadezhda. She is 56 years old and divorced. Her income level is below average, and the most important goal in her life is to own a piece of property. One of Nadezhda’s leisure options is to go for walks in the park. Or there is also Valery - he is 54 years old, married, has a son and two grandchildren. The income level is below average. One of the main goals is to have a good rest, eat a salad with chops, watch football and not go anywhere for leisure. Due to current restrictions, they are increasingly being drawn into the virtual world through television.
We change everything for our audience - from the picture and dynamics to the content and presentation. We are developing a new design of how our channel will look on the screen. Now we are exploring everything and will introduce innovations a little later.
Svitlana: We have set a relaunch date for ourselves. This does not mean that it will be a new channel, but rather a heavily updated one. We will remain Kyiv Live, but hope that from March 1 the channel will look different. We are now actively researching, doing ethnography and studying the biorhythms of our audience, and then will make the programming grid. For example, now the morning starts at 8.00, but we understand that it is too late for Kyiv and Odessa, because life is in full swing at 6.00 already. We will also create a linear production, because it allows to accumulate the library and gives the opportunity to control quality. We are actively recruiting new faces and expect to announce several transitions from other channels soon.
Viktor: One of the tasks is to form a great strong team. Not just to have a star team, but to make a star channel. We want the channel to develop an image of a channel where everyone wants to work, where it is interesting, where there is synergy, strong specialists, high-quality content, and a good rating. A place that would be an honor to work at. A channel that will become a point of attraction for specialists from all over the market, from the CIS countries. In particular, this is one of the tasks that the investor entrusted us with.
Dmytro: The channel should appear on radars, ratings should go up, and it should begin to grow. We have to get a good place in the coordinate system.
Here is how we see it. Next year we launch Kharkiv. Then, when we have a revamped Odesa and Kyiv, this is what the market will look like: there will be the big four – the four major holdings; then, us with our model, and then all the rest. We understand that if we achieve all we have planned (and they can hate us for what we are saying (laughs), – they will have to transform and adjust to us. Because they will not be able to satisfy the need that we will satisfy. Now the national news channel sets the average temperature in the hospital. On the one hand, it is relevant to everyone, but irrelevant to anyone. And when a high-quality alternative appears with a picture that does not make the eyes bleed, and something that does not show the fear and horror of the town but shows the process and makes people part of this process. And also, just makes your life more convenient, comfortable and easier so that you can understand. For example, a piece of legislation is adopted in Kyiv – what does it mean for residents of Odesa? Or Kharkiv?
Viktor: It is important to note if we look at the local elections campaign. Our company is the Institute of Cognitive Modeling, first of all, we deal with social technologies and study all the processes that occur in society, including the political ones. The local election campaign showed that the people distinguish between the central government and the local. Absolutely. They even vote for representatives of different parties when it comes to the parliament and locally. This is also the relevance of questions about decentralization that Svitlana raised at the beginning. So, the relevance of local regional projects is incredibly high because people are interested in the area where they live and the regions are important for them.
On a completely different side, in parallel with this, we are developing digital in addition to television as a separate direction. On the channels of our holding, it will not be just an application that will cover the channel's activities, but a self-sufficient product. Our digital will have its own products that will be interesting to people who do not watch TV. Moreover, our digital research makes us suspect that the audience of this direction will be slightly younger, therefore there will have a separate development strategy. We want to add elements of presence in the back of the screen and show life from the inside - what is happening behind the scenes. But the most important thing is that it will be a separate self-sufficient product.
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