Modern Times Group (MTG) now only has a foothold in Central and Eastern Europe following the confirmation of its Baltic assets sale earlier this week.
This is a far cry from how things looked in 2014, when it had a presence in Russia (Raduga TV and CTC Media), Ukraine (Viasat Ukraine) and the Czech Republic (FTV Prima). All have now been sold – or in the case of Raduga TV forcibly closed – along with the company’s FTA services in Hungary and now its fairly substantial Baltic operation.
This has left MTG with only one significant asset in the region, namely Nova TV in Bulgaria. Having acquired the station from Antenna Group for €620 million in 2008, it is now believed the company is planning to sell it, and for a significantly smaller amount.
With Central European Media Enterprises (CME) having also recently disposed of its broadcasting interests in Croatia and Slovenia, there is a question mark as to the future of bTV, the other leading commercial broadcaster in Bulgaria. It, too, could find itself under new ownership should CME decide to dispose of more TV stations in the region.
This would arguably be done to reduce its debt, or it could be a sign that Time Warner no longer places much significance in having a presence in Central and Eastern Europe.
However, in the case of MTG, its exit from the region, though perhaps precipitated by the problematic situation it found itself in in Russia following the imposition of new foreign ownership limits, has been accompanied by a major shift in the company’s business strategy.
This has seen it invest in what its president and CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann has described as “relevant, complementary and scalable digital content and communities”. Three months ago it was announced that MTG was to buy 100% of the US games publisher and developer Kongregate for $55 million, following shortly on from the acquisition of a majority (51%) stake in the German online games developer InnoGames.
MTG is now clearly a very different company to the one it was only a handful of years ago, with CEE peripheral to its overall business.