The Polish national commercial broadcaster TVN celebrated its twentieth anniversary this week.
I was fortunate to have been present at its launch on a cold and wet October evening in Warsaw in 1997. Now looking back, it’s amazing to see how much has since changed in the Polish TV industry and – equally importantly – how much still remains the same.
The changes are of course almost too numerous to mention. However, they have been built on a structure that is essentially still in place, with its main pillars being the public broadcaster TVP, national commercial stations Polsat and TVN, and large cable and DTH sectors.
TVN, which made its debut as a joint venture between CME and the local company ITI TV Holdings, was very much the brainchild of Mariusz Walter. The co-founder founder of ITI with the late Jan Wejchert, he headed TVN for the first four years. During that time, it quickly established itself as a refreshing alternative to TVP and Polsat, targeting a mostly young, urban, educated and affluent audience.
While Walter, Wejchert and the Swiss entrepreneur Bruno Valsangiacomo were the driving force behind TVN in the early years, Walter’s son Piotr took over the running of the company in the early 2000s, with Markus Tellenbach then finding himself at the helm in 2009.
TVN was by then a mature broadcaster and something of pioneer.
Indeed, it effectively introduced reality TV to Polish viewers by launching Big Brother in 2001.
Its owner ITI, too, continued to set the pace, launching a DTH platform named n in 2006 that went on to offer its subscribers HD, VOD and even 3D services.
Fast forward to late 2017 and TVN finds itself in another chapter of its history. Backed by Scripps Networks Interactive, itself soon to be taken over by Discovery Communications, it remains confident about its future despite these being uncertain times in Poland’s TV industry.
Even if limits on the levels of foreign investment in Polish media are introduced, as seems increasingly likely, TVN will almost certainly remain a key player in the country’s TV industry for many more years to come.