Chris Dziadul Reports: MTV’s uncertain future

Will the closure of MTV Russia mark the beginning of the end of the iconic music channel in Central and Eastern Europe?

The world is certainly a different place now to what it was in the late 1990s, when the localised version of MTV made its debut in Russia. Tapping in to a huge market, the service secured wide distribution and quickly became well established.

However, by the time MTV Russia underwent a change of ownership in 2007, with ProfMedia acquiring both it and VH1 Russia from Viacom for a reported $190 million (€145.3 million), the industry was already starting to change.

Indeed, competition in the form of local channels offering local music was slowly starting to appear. Fast-forward to today, and that competition is much more pronounced, not just in Russia but also in markets such as Poland, where the media has this week been speculating about the future of the localised version of MTV in the wake of MTV Russia’s closure, now confirmed for mid-2013.

Competition to MTV, now increasingly found online, has impacted on the channel’s ratings, not only in Russia but also in other CEE markets.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there appears to be an acknowledgment that something has to be done to reverse the channel’s decline.

Take the case of Ukraine, where the localised version of MTV is operated by the Inter Media Group, one of the country’s leading broadcasters. Just two months ago, the latter announced what it termed “a new stage of development” that will see “more freedom, more creativity and more experiments”. In short, the channel, which has been up and running for five years, wants to become even more localised.

Yet Ukraine is arguably one of its more successful markets, with Inter claiming MTV to be the country’s most successful cable and music entertainment channel. Elsewhere in the region, this is or perhaps never was the case.

While it is probably too early to talk about the demise of the MTV brand in Central and Eastern Europe, there is certainly change in the air as the music TV market continues to develop.

However, as an interesting footnote, it should also be noted that MTV, according to a report recently published by Digital TV Research, is still carried by more European operators than any other channel.