When it comes to TV industry pedigree, few can match Central European Media Enterprises (CME).
It launched the Czech Republic’s TV Nova, one of the first national commercial stations in CEE, in 1994 and has since been an ever-present in the region. What is more, despite its recent well-publicised financial difficulties – offset to some degree by securing Time Warner as a strategic investor only last month – it remains a key player.
The news that CME is engaged in talks to buy a stake in Poland’s TV Puls, and has in fact put in a bid for the regional station, nevertheless comes as something of a surprise. It is certainly a statement of intent.
At its zenith in the late 1990s, CME listed Poland’s TVN, as well as the Hungarian cable and satellite channel TV3, as two of its main assets in the region. It then disposed of both – to ITI Group and RTL Klub/TV2 respectively – in totally different circumstances and thereby relinquished its presence in two of CEE’s most lucrative markets.
There then followed a difficult period during which CME lost and then regained control of TV Nova. More recently, it has expanded its presence to Croatia and Bulgaria, and at the same time launched a number of thematic services in existing markets.
Moving back into Poland would make sense for several reasons. TV Puls was transformed by its previous backer News Corp from a station very much on the periphery to one poised to become an important player in the marketplace. This was done by changing the terms of its licence and – in the face of opposition from other broadcasters – extending its coverage.
What is more, TV Puls also now has a guaranteed slot on Poland’s first DTT multiplex, set to make its debut in September, and has plans to launch at least two thematic channels.
Dariusz Dabski, TV Puls’s president and 49% shareholder, has stated that the station is seeking expertise more than funding as it prepares to enter the new digital marketplace. Should it reach a deal with CME, both will surely be forthcoming.