CEO Stefana Zdravkova: 2023 expected to be a record-breaking year for Nova
BY Yako Molhov
CEETV is launching a series of interviews with executives from the CEE region who will talk about the most recent developments on their markets, content and monetization strategies as well as new challenges in the digital and streaming segments.

In this interview with Yako Molhov, Stefana Zdravkova, CEO of Nova Broadcasting Group, talked about her company's record-breaking spring season and plans for the fall and investments in the digital segment.
Stefana Zdravkova, CEO of Nova Broadcasting Group
Stefana, Nova announced strong viewership results at the start of the Spring TV season this year. Which are your best-performing shows?
In March, NOVA marked a record performance in its history so far – an average audience share of over 30% in the 18-49 demographic and a serious lead of eight points ahead of its main competitor. This is the highest monthly performance registered since the people metric system was introduced in Bulgaria.

Still, this Spring season we’ve had other achievements, too – the first episodes of hit formats Power Couple, Your Face Sounds Familiar and Hell’s Kitchen beat all strongest start records in NOVA’s history. Thus, the media left its competition far behind, and on some of the days it had a twofold lead ahead of the second-ranked television channel.

This season, we also expect to set an absolute record in viewership in Bulgaria.

I would also like to point out that on April 2, when the parliamentary elections were held in Bulgaria, NOVA dedicated nearly 18 hours of its program to this important event. It is an extraordinary achievement that all of NOVA's current affairs programs and newscasts were the leader on that day, among viewers in the coveted 18-59 demographic.

What is your content strategy for 2023? Will we see new formats and titles this year?
We continue to make large-scale investments in our program. Our ambition is to offer rich and versatile content to the Bulgarian audience. We have several priorities – Bulgarian film content, exclusive sports events, local programs, large-scale global reality formats, and, last but not least, high-quality news and current affairs content.

Nova Broadcasting Group is Bulgaria’s media company that fully supports the local film industry. Its development is part of our long-terms strategy and mission as a market leader. In the autumn, we will be able to present several brand-new series of various genres and original plots. Besides NOVA’s air, we are also witnessing serious viewers’ interest in the series on the NOVA Play and Vbox7 online platforms.

Nova Broadcasting Group has the biggest selection of sports content. Having broadcasted the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 4K resolution, we also gave our fans the opportunity to watch Premier League in perfect image quality. Continuing our long-term strategy, as of March we have started to broadcast the Formula 1 races also in 4K for the first time in Bulgaria.

What are your plans for Nova Play, especially in terms of original content?
Nova Play is very effective as AVOD platform, bringing more engagement and revenue to NOVA content. We publish various content and users are aware that it is easy to access. This year, we are expanding the coverage of the platform – it goes multichannel. This means we are going to integrate additional content sources. We are currently in the process of launching Nova News, Nova Sport and Diema Sport channels studios. We have also launched a podcast program, where various hosts from the media and external guests will produce digital content in video and audio podcast formats. The most successful launch here was Threesome at No Time, based on one of the most popular Bulgarian radio talkshows called Threesome in the Morning on Radio Vitosha, which is also part of Nova Broadcasting Group. Four more new shows are also coming soon.

What trends have you observed on the Bulgarian market in 2023? What is your forecast for this advertising year amid rising inflation?
Following a couple of years of advertising market growth, especially in 2021 and 2022, when we saw double-digit growth, in 2023 we are facing a slowdown. Certainly, inflation has affected all fields and it’s normal for TV ad prices to continue to go up. We are one of biggest content producers who continue to invest massively in local productions, new Bulgarian series and a variety of premium sports content. Television will maintain its leadership in the advertising mix with growth of around 3% in 2023 and a share of almost 54-55% in the media mix. The trend of increasing digital media share in the overall media mix continues with estimated growth of 9-10% and we believe that in 2024 it will expand to over 33-34% of the advertisers’ media mix spending.

You recently announced that you have moved into a new complex, with top-of-the-line studios. How has this improved the work of Nova Broadcasting Group and its media outlets?
The building of Nova Broadcasting Group is unique in Bulgaria, because it was built specifically for the creation of new-generation television and radio production. The company now has nine ultra-modern television and radio studios, spacious equipment rooms, editing offices and a brand-new newsroom. Our main goal is to upgrade what we have already achieved and further improve the quality of our media services. We have access to cutting-edge technological innovations, which give us enormous opportunities. In the long run, this investment will pay off, because we will cut costs thanks to the multifunctionality of our studios. We will no longer rent external studios. We have completely switched to LED lights in the studio complex, which will significantly decrease the expenses on electricity. Modern technologies allow us to be faster, innovative, and responsive to our audience dеmands. There are innovations in the whole technological chain of audio-visual content. The software that our news professionals use is exceptionally functional, the latest version has just been launched on the market.

Talking about new generation technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly gaining pace in many areas, including TV production and broadcasting. What are your plans in this area?
United Group is looking into the potential of machine learning and artificial intelligence technology in media content production to achieve automation and increased efficiency. These advancements offer benefits to both creators and consumers and have the potential to shape the future of media content.

In our last interview we talked about the integration of Net Info, the leading digital company in the country, with Nova and also synergies with NBG's parent company United Media Group and its companies in other countries. Any news on that front?
United Media is working purposefully to synchronize and improve the digital services in all territories where it operates. Our efforts are aimed at improving consumer experience, video platforms, news and sports websites, piracy prevention, and content protection.

The company has its own independent advertising ecosystem, where advertisements can be delivered in any content, on every market, at any time and reach the audiences through omnichannel advertising strategies, ensuring incremental reach for advertisers.

Even though the topic of sustainability seems to have been pushed aside by the war in Ukraine, it is still an important issue. What is Nova's strategy to become 'greener'?
As part of the United Group family, we are following our common strategic goal of market leadership in terms of sustainability in the telecom and media industry. United Group CEO Victoriya Boklag has announced the group’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2040 as both sectors – media and telecom – have
Instrumental to the digital transformation of the entire NBG, Stefana Zdravkova has served for the past three years as CEO of Net Info, one of Bulgaria’s leading digital media companies. The continuous growth of the key products and stand out among her numerous achievements. In addition, she has managed to successfully develop and implement an innovative strategy for new intent sites, while introducing new advertising products and launching new sales partnerships. Furthermore, she was a key person of digital transformation projects in NBG.
A highly skilled professional, with insightful knowledge of the media environment and a firm believer in innovation as the driver for success, Stefana Zdravkova has a proven track record of building and working with great teams, a crucial element for competitive corporate players in today’s demanding global market. She has always worked for the most innovative companies in their field. Among other positions, before joining Net Info she was the Country Manager of eMAG in Bulgaria from 2016 until December 2018. Her career also includes management positions in strong multinational companies like Xerox, Siemens Mobile, Logitech & Toshiba Europe Gmbh.
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