Local Content and Brand Building Essential for Success
BY Yako Molhov
Daniel Grunt, Chief Digital Officer CME and CEO of Czech TV Nova, and Yako Molhov discuss the latest developments within CME’s media business. Namely the milestone achieved by streaming service Voyo and the continued success of the linear TV operations in Czechia, as well as plans to invest further in the group’s brands and push forward with even more original content.

This is a shortened version of the interview which can be found in its full length on the CEETV website.
Daniel Grunt, Chief Digital Officer CME and CEO of Czech TV Nova
Daniel, in our interview last year you said you expected Voyo to reach 1 million viewers by 2026 in Czechia and Slovakia. This is already a fact for all your 6 territories combined - in February CME announced you have reached this milestone. To what do you attribute this huge success, which also marks a nearly seven-fold increase since 2020 and is especially impressive bearing in mind the international crisis and people cutting back on entertainment expenses?
The most crucial aspect is the content we create. We focus on premium local productions, which are locally relevant, collaborating with the best creators and creative teams in the market. The results are already visible, as Voyo Originals are collecting numerous awards. Our content is highly valued not only by the public but also by experts.

Furthermore, significant investments in brand building play a vital role. Voyo is the strongest and most recognized brand in the SVOD market, alongside Netflix. The Voyo brand is associated as a local champion linked with premium local content.

Equally important is our work with our users to ensure maximum engagement. Currently, we’re reaching an average of up to 15 tracked hours per week.

The numbers reveal that out of these over 1 million subs 800.000 are in Czechia and Slovakia. What is your strategy to attract more subscribers in the rest of your territories?
The strategy is to build on what works and is successful in the Czechia and Slovakia, taking into account country-specific factors. However, the core will always be a close connection with the strongest local television stations in the local market, which belong to the group. The goal is to offer content anytime, anywhere, without ads. Of course, focusing on local content in each individual market and investing in brand building are also essential.

At the height of the “streaming wars,” all the major streamers focused on getting more subscribers, investing billions in content; then the crisis came and they shifted the focus on cutting costs and eyeing profit. Where does Voyo stand in this respect, is the service already profitable?
The crisis hasn’t had a significant impact on Voyo. Our subscription price remains very affordable, offering entertainment for the whole family throughout the month. While people cut back on more expensive cultural expenses like concerts, Voyo provides a cost-effective alternative, with a monthly subscription costing less than a single cinema ticket for the whole family.

Furthermore, Voyo is not just weathering the storm; we’re investing even more. We see this as a competitive advantage.

You are both CME’s Chief Digital Officer and the CEO of TV Nova, the company’s flagship broadcaster in the region. How do you manage to operate a profitable streaming service and also operate the TV market leader: isn’t streaming hurting your “golden goose” (or in your case “golden swan” - more on that later in the interview), what is the successful synergy between those two?
Operating both Voyo and TV Nova allows us to leverage their complementary strengths. At the beginning we used TV Nova’s extensive audience base to drive awareness for Voyo.


Our current strategy revolves around creating activities aimed at achieving maximum combined reach for our content, regardless of the platform. While there is certainly some cannibalization occurring, our goal is to effectively manage it so that it is minimal. As linear TV viewing time declines, the reach of our content, and consumption, continues to grow.

In today’s landscape, where there is a clear trend of linear television shifting to streaming services, it’s always better to independently manage and regulate content, distribution and monetization, and not let the actions of others influence you.

How is video consumption and TV viewing changing in CEE? What are the latest trends, we see TSV is gradually decreasing, is that at the expense of streaming? CME operates in territories that are different when it comes to TV consumption, i.e. Romania and Bulgaria have always had a strong cable TV and satellite market while viewers in Czechia, for example, prefer DVB-T. Are things changing in this respect?
In the CEE region, like elsewhere globally, traditional linear television is experiencing decreasing viewership, with attention shifting towards time-shifted viewing, catch-up services, and streaming platforms. CEE stands out as a stability island, with a slower decline compared to regions like America or Western Europe.

We see a stagnation of paid television operator numbers, alongside a decline in some areas in favor of OTT services, reflecting global trends. Consequently, we are investing heavily in Voyo as an OTT service.

In response to these changes, CME is investing in both traditional TV broadcasting and Voyo to meet diverse audience needs and prepare for future growth in this dynamic environment.

You announced that Voyo is the leading local streamer in almost all of your territories. What is the situation compared to international streamers, namely Netflix which usually tops the streamers chart in every territory, what do your numbers indicate? Do you have any concerns international streamers will start to invest into local originals in your major markets?
In almost all of our markets where we operate, we are the top local player when competing with international services. In the Czechia and Slovakia, we rank second after Netflix, while in Slovenia, we hold the number one position.

Our strategy of consistently being the strongest local service has proven successful in our markets. We see ourselves as a complementary option to the largest global services. We’re not overly concerned about multinational players making significant investments in our markets, as they may introduce only two or three titles, whereas we produce a much larger variety of content.


Since 2021 Voyo has released 37 originals, with 7 planned for this year. What are the most-popular genres for your streaming service (alongside crime) and how do you develop content for Voyo, do you have a special development and commissioning teams? What have been your most-successful titles alongside Iveta, The Extractors, The Markovič Method; etc?
We have a special development department headed by Michal Reitler who is one the most renowned content gurus in the market. He stands behind some of the most successful projects produced, especially on public television. And we are proud of being able to work with him. He built a team of creative producers and writers who focus on different segments of development from scripted comedies, dramas, crime to docu series. In general, we have a single content team for both Voyo and television, to maximize synergy. Within this team, one segment specializes in programming, acquisitions, and Voyo content separately.

In the Czech market, the most popular is the medical series Rose Garden Clinic, which used to be the most beloved title on linear, continues on Voyo. Among newest projects, true crime series and true stories are extremely popular. So, basically scripted series based on topics which are relevant for the Czech market.

We are extremely thankful and proud that we can produce them with the best creators and producers on the market, and that viewers very much appreciate the quality of the Voyo Originals.

Currently, The Markovič Method: Hojer, from the Voyo Original lineup, is the strongest performer in the Czechia and Slovakia. Mathematics of Crime has won awards such as the Czech Lion and Slnko v sieti. We are starting to gain recognition at festivals, both industry-specific and audience-oriented. There is growing interest in our content from international distributors, with The Extractors being one example. One of the most successful still remains Case of Roubal, which was the first true crime launched on Voyo and received great feedback.

You started distributing Czech Voyo content on the international market - in October you premiered The Extractors which is now distributed by Keshet International. Tell us more about this deal, can we expect more Voyo Originals hitting the international market? Perhaps your true crime hits?
We are pleased to see interest in our content on the international stage. The Extractors were a pilot for us to gauge interest and reception. However, there is growing interest in our other titles as well, so we anticipate this trend will continue.

CME will have a strong presence at NATPE Budapest 2024, with two of the company’s CEOs being on the Advisory Board. What kind of content will Voyo and TV Nova be looking for in terms of acquisitions? How big is Voyo’s catalog right now?
As every year, TV Nova will be represented by our acquisition team at NATPE Budapest. They will be present and meeting with our usual partners discussing some new content, new formats and following up some existing conversations. Our content strategy remains consistent, focusing on robust offerings for both our primary and niche channels, as well as Voyo. We aim to acquire content that complements our local production strategy, which remains our core focus.

We have 2000 titles in Czechia, offering the largest selection of Czech and Slovak titles here and in Slovakia.


Will you invest more into content this year, despite the crisis?
Yes, and we are going to invest even more than last year.

How have TV Nova’s channels performed this spring and what were your most successful programs?
This spring, TV Nova’s channels have performed strongly, with Nova Group AD achieving a 33.13% audience share and PT reaching 36.65% among the 15-54 demographic.

Some of our most successful programs during this period include series Iveta, first Voyo Original on TV Nova, crime series Specialists, One Family, knowledge competition Beat the Chasers, and of course phenomenon The Street. However, the most watched program was The Chase: 30 Years with Nova.

TV Nova shot one of its latest series (a co-production with TV Markiza) in Croatia. Did you cooperate with your sister net RTL Croatia on Police Hvar? Have you planned co-productions with other CME territories, alongside your traditional partner Slovakia? And what about the increased interest in shooting in Czechia by international players and also your main competitor Prima investing more in content, is this driving production costs up and are there enough professionals to satisfy the increasing demand?
We approach this opportunistically; if there is an opportunity, we will take advantage of it, but now we will analyze the success of Police Hvar. Ahead of us is Bora, which we plan to launch as a Voyo Original.

Yes, this is a general issue in our market, as all three major television groups have significantly increased their investments in creating premium local content. At the same time, we are not only competing among ourselves, but Czechia is a very attractive destination for international productions from the USA, Germany, and the rest of Western Europe.

Last time we talked, you shared you are focusing on repositioning your niche channels. Is the process still ongoing? In some territories CME is changing the profile of its niche channels, are you looking into that as well?
Throughout the past year, our focus has been primarily on refining and implementing the positioning and segmentation strategies across all our channels, including flagship TV Nova and Voyo. This year marks the execution phase of these strategies, with further adjustments planned for the upcoming year. Similar initiatives are concurrently underway across all CME territories.
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