CME Adria CEO Stella Litou: We will rebrand RTL Play to Voyo
CEETV continues its series of exclusive interviews with CME executives today. This time it is the turn of CME Adria's CEO Stella Litou to tell Yako Molhov about her first year on the position and the plans for growth in Croatia and Slovenia, including the rebrand of RTL Play to Voyo - CME's streaming brand.
Stella, last year you joined CME Adria as CEO with the primary objective of advancing the integration and synergy strategy between Pro Plus in Slovenia and RTL Croatia. How is this strategy shaping up and what will be the main synergies between the two broadcasters?
Pro Plus and RTL Croatia are working together smoothly with teams eager to learn from each other and who are actively collaborating on several big projects. Specifically, on content production, broadcasting technology, VOD, exchanging knowledge and sharing management roles. The goal is to leverage the strengths of both companies and drive growth.
How would you describe the TV markets in Slovenia and Croatia? What are the main differences and similarities?
Slovenia and Croatia are relatively small, but they are dynamic, competitive, and heavily regulated with strict rules regarding advertising, content and ownership, measurement. Audiences in both countries are seeking local content, consumed on all platforms. TV usage has the highest reach. On the other hand, content consumption on digital platforms is growing. Therefore, we need one currency measurement. Furthermore, in Croatia recently a new Law on Electronic Media was introduced with so called Must Offer rule. It means that we as content providers cannot negotiate a fee with platform operators for redistribution of our content. We must make content available but in return we receive a minimal fee defined by law. There is no European example of such rules.
Talking about the results, in Slovenia, Pro Plus is the undisputed leader in the local media market, with excellent results across all outlets - traditional TV, online portals, and especially SVOD with VOYO. This presents a unique set of challenges. Nurturing the traditional TV business that is still strong but delicate, optimizing our cost structure, and identifying new growth areas. In contrast, we are a strong number two in Croatia with a clear ambition to grow. Our latest results have given us confidence that we are on the right track. We made changes in our primetime schedule that resulted in significant growth in shares and sales.
CME used to operate Nova TV in Croatia which was sold in 2018 but in 2022 CME returned to the country by acquiring RTL Croatia. What is the importance of the Croatian TV and media market to CME and have you considered rebranding RTL Croatia?
The Croatian TV and media market holds significant importance for CME. The high demand for the premium local content across multiple platforms provides us with an opportunity to differentiate ourselves and reposition to a market leader. We are heavily investing in the best entertainment formats; we work closely with the creative industry, and we will further strengthen our investment in informative programming to further sharpen our news profile. We also strongly believe in nurturing locally recognized brands. Strategy that has proven successful in multiple territories, so we don’t plan to deviate from it in Croatia. We are here to stay.
What are your expectations for the ad markets in the two territories this year? Will we see growth in the TV and the online segment?
The TV market in Slovenia is the most important. It offers the greatest reach and has the advantageous KPI efficiency clients are looking for. We expect slight growth, and digital will grow too. Our main goal in Slovenia is to remain the first choice for advertisers, with our tailor-made advertising solutions.
In Croatia, we also expect YOY slight growth, both in TV and digital. Creative offers give our clients different possibilities. We are and will continue to be trendsetters in both countries.
How have Pro Plus and RTL Croatia fared in terms of viewership this spring? What were the best-performing shows?
RTL Croatia is having an exceptionally successful spring season. Compared to the same period last year we increased in audience shares in primetime for the group of channels. The main RTL channel drove the growth with the excellent new seasons of Come Dine with Me, Married at First Sight and Farmer Wants a Wife. In the access primetime slot, we introduced the new season of the gameshow The Price is Right which also has great results and is an excellent lead-in to our main news and primetime slot. What’s most important is that we are growing, and our main competitor results are significantly downtrending. RTL has closed the gap in 18-54 by almost 10 percentage points over the last 11 months and we even beat our closest competitor in primetime in March.
In Slovenia, Pro Plus remains the first choice among viewers. Our channels maintain their leading position, with a 45% primetime share, with year-on-year growth. The most watched content on POP TV is the news 24UR with 46% share while local entertainment is also at the highest level. Currently, we air Home Makeover (Work Action), MasterChef Slovenia, and the reality show Power Couple. Kanal A offers Svet, a more magazine-like way of presenting news while the most attractive content for our viewers on this channel remains sport with Champions League Europa League and Moto GP.
What about your plans for the fall season? Will Slovenian and Croatian viewers see many new projects or mostly returning ones?
RTL is preparing a mixture of local content. Our new daily fiction is completely developed and produced internally. Newly built sets, the biggest until now, great cast and excellent storyline will give our viewers a new level of content enjoyment. The reality project The Biggest Loser is coming back so is the new season of Come Dine with Me. Flashy Idols is in preproduction. In Slovenia, one of the most popular realities The Farm is returning as is Got Talent, which is exceptionally popular. Our plans for Fall are broad, diverse and exciting.
Have you planned Slovenian-Croatian co-productions?
We see great potential for further developing high-quality local content in our markets. There is a strong appetite for more local and regional content and co-productions are another way to provide more of those products whenever it makes sense, content-wise.
How do you cooperate with the other members of the CME group?
I see cooperation with other companies in our group as one of our greatest strengths. Within CME we have incredible potential in experience and knowledge, and it is a privilege to be able to tap into that daily. Our leaders are aware of this and fosters a culture of sharing best practices, solving challenges, and managing projects together. It is truly incredible when people from different countries and different sectors come together and spark creativity, all aiming for the same goal.
I am convinced these synergies always result in growth for both the company and the individual.
For me personally, our ESG initiative CME Cares is also very important. We have brought together experts from different sectors in CME countries to establish a unique strategy on how we can make ESG part of our culture and our culture. I am proud of that work and my coworkers for bringing this to life.
CME is attending NATPE Budapest 2023 between June 19 and 22. What is CME's acquisition strategy for Pro Plus and RTL Croatia? What genres are you looking for mostly in terms of acquired content?
We’re on the lookout for strong content that resonates with our audiences and to which they can strongly relate. On ready-mades we focus on reality and factual entertainment titles with multiple seasons and commercial movie packages.
We know Nova TV has been quite successful selling scripted formats in the region. Will CME be present on the market with its original content?
CME sees value and long-term benefits from investing into creating our own intellectual property. We’re ramping up our development and commissioning of premium original local content. Soon enough we will be offering more of it to the market.
Are you planning to launch new cable channels in the two territories this year?
After having successfully launched Astra in Slovenia and RTL Adria in Croatia, we now have a rounded channel portfolio in both markets. We offer varied and high-value content, local, regional, and international. We continue to monitor viewers' needs of and distribution partners and will be looking for ways to strengthen our offering in the future.
There is no Voyo streaming service in Croatia - CME sold Nova in 2018 and acquired RTL Croatia in June 2022. What are your plans for the Croatian streaming market?
In Croatia, AVOD and SVOD options are currently available under the brand PLAY and PLAY Premium. Our goal is to establish a strong presence in the Croatian streaming market and become one of the leading players in the industry Our strategy includes investing in VOD, expanding direct-to-consumer business with a new and improved wider range of high-quality content offering and improved user experience. We will rebrand Play to Voyo so we will have one umbrella brand for streaming and bring it to the market with additional features and a wider offer in fall.
On the other hand, Voyo is quite successful in Slovenia?
Yes, it is quite a success story. Our viewers want Slovenian content, Slovenian productions, and the numbers confirm it. Today, almost 25% of internet households already use VOYO, more than 160.000 subscribers. We offer more than 15,000 hours of content in Slovenian or with Slovenian subtitles, which can be watched anywhere, anytime. Our users are loyal and regular viewers, with over 90% visiting as weekly. We are proud, that the creation of original content goes hand in hand with the support of Slovenian audiovisual production and thus of all creatives contributing to the impressive growth of SVOD at CME group where we see our subscribers nearing 1 million.