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Coming to NATPE Budapest: Ralf Bartoleit, CEO bTV Media Group, Pt.2
 15 May 2024
Continued from Coming to NATPE Budapest: Ralf Bartoleit, CEO bTV Media Group, Pt.1:

bTV is part of one of the leading media groups in the region - Central European Media Enterprises (CME). What are the synergies within the group, have you planned co-productions with sister channels and partners outside of the company?

We work successfully with our colleagues from CME. This covers both entertainment and news content. Each country takes the best from the other within CME and this helps a lot not only to develop ideas and projects locally, but also to maintain the same high level in parallel in all 6 markets - Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Romania & Moldova, Slovakia, and Slovenia. CME is the first media group in the region that held a dedicated Green Week at all of its stations, supporting the EU Green Week and following the footsteps of broadcasters in the UK, Germany and other countries, who have been raising awareness of the severity of climate crisis already for many years. In 2023 CME Green Week content reached a total of 23 million viewers. Initiative takes place in June and throughout the week, stations organize events for employees and provide various climate-related content, inspiring viewers to make sustainable choices. CME also aims to minimize the carbon footprint of its productions, and it was the first media group in the CEE to join albert, an association promoting environmentally responsible production in the TV and film industry. In Bulgaria, we have already certified 7 bTV productions and our target is to reach 100% of our shows by 2027.

CME's streaming service Voyo plays an increasingly important role for the company's overall strategy, now boasting over 1 mln subscribers in all territories combined. How would you describe the streaming market in Bulgaria, do you see room for growth?

The streaming market in Bulgaria is constantly growing and our expectations is for VOD market to continue its growth. Despite Bulgaria being a small and a very price sensitive market, the rise of on-demand services can be clearly observed. It is a global trend based on the convenience and ease of this type of content usage. We see a room for growth, especially for local players like VOYO who know the local preferences and can offer a tailor-made service for the Bulgarian market.

What is the streaming service's performance in Bulgaria compared to other streamers? What is bTV Media Group's content strategy for Voyo? Will viewers see Voyo Originals soon?

VOYO in Bulgaria keeps its steady customer base and is among the key players on the market. It is one of the first platforms on the market and is well known brand among the customers. In Bulgaria, VOYO offers a catalog with over 9.000 hours of quality video content from various genres - Bulgarian and foreign series, films, live sports, children's content, and TV shows from the bTV portfolio. Among the top performers are always the local titles – this season Sunny Beach, the new series Alpha, and the top reality Dancing Stars. Drama and crime series are also among the most consumed. Users can enjoy exclusive content, Champions League football, and other special events from the world of sports. The best part is that our library is live, we add new episodes and titles every day so the customer can find new entertainment and stories on the platform constantly. We are very conscious of the customer preferences and try to adapt to what our local audience wants to see on the platform. A big advantage for VOYO is that we focus on the Bulgarian audience only so we can offer what Bulgarians want to watch specifically. Our efforts are now centered on improving the user experience and increasing engagement through technological upgrades and content partnerships.

Bulgaria is currently not a major market for the international streamers, with many of them not even offering localization in the country, not to mention local content. Do you see opportunities stemming from that fact?

Our CME family has one common goal and strategy: to continue to be the leading content producer in the CEE region, delivering high quality and high-volume local content for distribution across our linear and digital channels. In Bulgaria, our goal is to meet the demands of our consumers and clients, which includes localization. Audiences clearly prefer, and in some cases expect, to watch content in the local language, so a major competitive advantage for VOYO in Bulgaria is that all content is in Bulgarian without exception.

In our last interview, you noted that your digital assets enjoyed double digit growth in 2023. Is this growth continuing in 2024 and what is your strategy for digital?

bTV Media Group's digital strategy focuses on three main areas - video, technology, and social platforms. Our digital platforms are built on the TV experience with exclusively curated formats, and a healthy collaboration between all formats results in quality content and offerings that resonate with all consumers. VOYO will play a more central role in our portfolio very soon. There is a fresh new brand identity that will be presented on the Bulgarian market, coming with an updated platform for better user experience and of course lots of high-quality content for our consumers. Our goal this year is to ensure that bTV Plus, VOYO and all digital platforms are well-positioned, technically secured and running according to the latest high-tech trends, allowing consumers to choose what they want to watch, where and how they are most comfortable.

You are a member of NATPE Budapest 2024's Advisory Board and also a speaker at the leading market event for TV in CEE. What are the main topics and issues you will focus on and how would you describe the current state of the CEE TV and streaming markets?

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be part of this high-profile event. With the help of the best media and entertainment experts from the CEE and EMEA regions, we want to focus on the development trends of our industry and create the best, most relevant and useful content. I have strong contacts with many of the production houses and colleagues from neighboring countries. It is always useful to learn what works well in other markets. Sometimes you have two markets that are very close geographically and they buy the same product, but the results are completely different. This is one of the biggest challenges in the media business - thinking globally, predicting developments several years ahead, but at the same time having a deep understanding of your audience and their preferences so that you can be successful locally. I can't wait to join the NATPE community in June and exchange ideas with so many people from the region.


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