What is currently happening in the Russian TV industry, four months after the start of the war in Ukraine?
It goes without saying that little has been reported in the West about how it is copying in the new reality it now finds itself in. A reality in which most foreign channels, along with some leading Russian ones hitherto distributed by foreign satellites, have disappeared from viewers’ screens.
Earlier this week Izvestia published an article in which it discussed Intelsat’s decision in May to switch off the channels VGTRK, Channel One and NTV. The move affected over 3 million subscribers of the DTH operator Orion Express, which uses the Intelsat satellites Horizons 2 and Intelsat-15.
Although they can in theory still continue to watch the channels on Orion Express, with the channels’ signals duplicated by Express-80, this requires them to redirect their satellite dishes to the Russian-owned satellite. Denis Kuskov, the CEO of TelecomDaily, nevertheless pointed out in the article that this is not a simple task, requiring specialists and incurring additional costs.
In the absence of a numerous foreign channels, Russian viewers are now being offered more local services. In late April, for instance, the DTH platform NTV-Plus announced it was withdrawing Paramount Pictures channels, including MTV, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr, from its offer “by the decision of the copyright holders”. Since then, it has introduced several new channels, including SuperHeroes, aimed at kids aged 4-12, and Start Air, targeting fans of Russian movies and TV series.
Meanwhile, Tricolor, the country’s leading pay-TV operator, has launched two new kids channels in quick succession. TipTop, its first proprietary service in the genre, made its debut in late April and was followed by Chizhik in early June.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Russia’s OTT services have been particularly hard hit by the decision of Western content providers to no longer operate in the country. They have responded by – amongst other things – showing their viewers a growing number of titles from Turkey and South Korea.
At the same time, Gazprom-Media has responded to the new reality by entering into a partnership with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to jointly work on film productions.
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