The closure of the news-based station Z1 is undoubtedly a setback for the TV industry in the Czech Republic.
Launched in June 2008 and backed by the J&T group, whose other interests include the long-established Slovak station TV Joj, Z1 never really set the market on fire. Indeed, it went off the air claiming an audience share of less than 1% and was still losing money despite being restructured – and in fact posting increased ad revenues – in 2010.
Z1’s disappearance from the scene is the latest blow to the six companies – Febio TV, TV Barrandov, TV Pohoda, Ocko, RTA and Z1 – granted digital TV licences in 2006 that were subsequently withdrawn and then reinstated as “compensatory” following amendments to the media law.
Any chance of Febio TV launching effectively disappeared in August last year when Fero Fenic, the founder of the film and TV production company Febio, decided to close it due to declining interest in independent documentary filmmaking in the Czech Republic.
TV Pohoda, on the other hand, may or may nor finally launch this spring, while Ocko vacated the third DTT multiplex in 2009 and subsequently found itself on the fourth, which still continues to operate on an experimental basis. RTA returned its licence to the Radio and TV Council in August 2010, having failed to launch within a designated period of one year.
Only TV Barrandov is fully up and running, distributed on the second DTT multiplex alongside all the leading Czech commercial stations. Despite still running at a loss, it expects to finally break even next year.
One out of six looks like a poor return for what were hoped to be a new generation of Czech digital channels. In their place have come services operated by the established broadcasters TV Nova and Prima TV, with the former even expressing an interest in eventually having its own DTT multiplex.
Although the Czech DTT market is clearly in a state of flux, with the national transmission company CRa, now backed by the Macquarie Group, having recently taken control of the third multiplex, the country has come a long way in its transition to digital broadcasting.
The demise of Z1, though a blow, is unlikely to hinder progress towards ASO later this year.