Following weeks of speculation, the sale of Bulgaria’s leading TV station bTV to CME has finally been confirmed.
The deal marks the latest stage in CME’s reorganization in CEE. Only earlier this week, its exit from Ukraine was also confirmed when the country’s Antimonopoly Committee (AMCU) approved the sale of Studio 1+1 and Kino TV channels to Harley Trade Limited, a company owned by the CME director and shareholder Igor Kolomoisky.
CME in addition continues to be linked with Poland’s TV Puls, which has been seeking a strategic investor since News Corp sold its stake in the station in late 2008. Last month TVN made and subsequently withdrew what was probably a rival bid for a controlling stake in TV Puls.
Last quarter and full year results due to be published on February 24 may provide some clues as to CME’s next moves. While more disposals could be on the cards, some of its interests – especially those in the Czech Republic (TV Nova) and Romania (Pro TV) – are probably considered core and certainly not for sale.
With the acquisition of bTV and News Corp’s other assets in Bulgaria, CME finds itself in an extremely strong position in the country. It, too, will probably now be regarded as a core market.
Indeed, in bTV CME has secured Bulgaria’s leading station, claiming an audience share of just under 40%. Its nearest rivals are Nova TV, which has been backed by MTG since July 2008, and publicly owned BNT.
The scenario that will now be played out in the country will effectively see CME go head-to-head with MTG. CME, which says it is “focused on building a highly profitable vertically integrated media company operating in the EU and EU accession countries”, will also have the channels bTV Cinema, bTV Comedy, Pro.BG and Ring.BG in its portfolio.
MTG meanwhile includes the Diema group and MM channels alongside Nova TV under the Nova Televizija banner.
Growing competition between the two companies can only be of benefit to Bulgaria’s TV industry as a whole.