The TV industry across Central and Eastern Europe is responding in positive and in many cases also imaginative ways to the coronavirus pandemic.
In Slovakia, for instance, we saw earlier this week the launch of a new thematic channel dedicated solely to informing the public about COVID-19. On air for 24 hours daily, Corona Virus Info TV is operated by Antik Telecom and continuously updated.
Meanwhile, in the neighbouring Czech Republic the public broadcaster Ceska Televize (CT) has announced plans to launch a new channel on March 23 aimed specifically at elderly viewers, one of the most vulnerable groups during the crisis. On air from 9.30am to 5.25pm, it will offer three strands of content – practical advice, news and classic TV programmes – and be distributed principally terrestrially via DVB-T2, though also cable and satellite.
Elsewhere, numerous operators throughout the region are making at least some of their content available to a wider audience. In Russia, for instance, the leading pay-TV provider Tricolor announced earlier this week that it is offering its main channel and film packages for free to all people who are not its customers during the period of coronavirus quarantine imposed in the country. In Poland, the DTH platform Platforma Canal+ is creating an open window that gives its subscribers access, irrespective of the package they receive, free access to higher packages and the Kino Swiat film library until the end of this month.
Also in Poland, a new business channel (Biznes24) launched on March 20 is being made available free of charge on a trial basis to all cable operators for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
Clearly this is an unprecedented time, with many countries imposing isolation on their populations. It is creating strong demand for audiovisual content, so much so that it has even been reported Netflix plans to reduce the video quality of its streaming service in Europe by 25% until late April in order to ease the strain on ISPs.
Once the coronavirus crisis is over, the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe, and indeed the rest of the world, is unlikely to be quite the same again.