Matthias Settele, GD Markíza: Voyo is our key priority
BY Yako Molhov
CEETV continues its series of exclusive interviews with CME executives today as Markiza TV's top executive Matthias Settele answers Yako Molhov's questions.
The spring season was very successful for Markiza both in terms of linear TV viewing and on the group's streaming platform Voyo which remains a key priority in Markiza's strategy. Settele also expressed his satisfaction with the realized ad sales during the opening months of the year and revealed what are the broadcaster's plans for the fall 2023 season.
Matthias Settele, GD Markíza
Matthias, you are the General Director of Markíza TV in Slovakia, which has always been the leading TV channel on the market. What is the recipe for success for retaining this leadership for so many years?
We have a dedicated team, which loves television. That’s the basis of our success. The rest is hard work and a bit of luck. We invest a lot into research, high quality filming and editing, building up our streaming platform and use all data from TV, online and social media. The global competition requires also a clear branding and much more efforts in marketing and social media. Most important is still the teamwork between program, news, production, PR and promotion. So: one team, one passion!

The Slovak TV ad market is one of the smaller ones in CEE. How have COVID, the war in Ukraine and the general economic situation affected it and what are your forecasts for this year?
TV and online have proven to be the leading media types and this trend has been accelerated by the pandemic and other challenges we face these times. We have negotiated a double-digit price increase for last year and 2023 based on the high demand for TV ads. And if I look at the first months of 2023, volumes are up year on year.

Are you happy with Markiza's ratings this spring? What have been your major hits this season?
We have changed almost the entire spring grid and are happy that with the exception of one program, all formats exceeded our expectations. Our new daily family series Mama na prenájom (Mom for Rent), our first period romantic series Dunaj, k vašim službám (Dabube, At Your Service) and our versions of Dancing with the Stars, Kitchen Nightmares and Liar - all of them attracted a huge audience so far. News and magazines have also improved year-on-year.

What are your plans for the fall season, which shows will be returning? Have you planned an increase in content spend for 2023?
We will continue with our daily series Mom for Rent, our historic family saga Danube, At Your Service and reality show Na nože (Kitchen Nightmares), we will launch one new studio show and bring back successful reality shows The Farm and Love Island. Dragons' Den comes to Slovakia as premiere under the local name Jama levova (Lion's Den) and we continue with Výnimočná Nikol (Extraordinary Nikol), our version of the French hit series HPI: Haut Potentiel Intellectuel.

This year Markíza launched its first period drama Danube, At Your Service which proved a ratings success. Your sister net Nova is also airing a series called Zlatá labuť (The Golden Swan). Tell us a little bit more about the two projects, which is the original format and why did you opt for two separate series instead of a co-production?
Initial credits do not belong to us: The Czech team, producer and Nova, had the idea and we took it over as starting point, but transferred it to Bratislava by setting it at Dunaj (Danube), the first Slovak department store. From that moment our writers created their own world, characters and stories. If you watch both versions, you can see the different viewing tastes in both countries. Slovaks like stories and relations, so our version is more a historic novel than a drama with rich and poor, love and hate, war and business, Nazis and Jews… Our production team is proud of its content and timing quality.

Let's talk a little bit about Ruža pre nevestu (The Bachelor). You rebooted the format after 17 years off air, but it failed to repeat its exceptional success from 2006. To what do you attribute its lack of success with Slovak viewers this time and do you plan to produce a new season?
You cannot compare today‘s offer with more than 150 TV channels, online, social media and recently ten streaming platforms. Yes, the linear performance could be better, but on the other hand The Bachelor is one of the top formats on our streaming service Voyo, outperforming most of the other programs. The younger streaming generation loves it but watch it in advance or later during the weekend. So we are far from classifying it as a failure.

Markíza will be attending NATPE Budapest this year. What is your group's acquisitions strategy, what kind of content will you be looking for? What about potential co-productions and partnerships?
We look for films and series for our group of four channels and of course for format rights. Equally important is to develop personal contacts and the exchange of ideas. Co-productions we see less likely, we are masters of adaptations or creating versions which are 100% Slovak, without any compromises.

Markíza has been working on the launch of a new niche channel, but details have been under wraps so far. Could you reveal some details about this new channel?
We will first inform the cable operators, advertising clients and our viewers. So please be patient.

Talking about the cable TV market - according to local media reports The Slovak Antimonopoly Office is looking into an alleged joint effort between you and JOJ to limit the retransmission of Czech channels in Slovakia. What is your comment on this matter?
We have talked to the Antimonopoly office and explained to them the situation that some Czech channels violate our exclusive program rights for Slovakia and have provided them with the evidence and form of our contracts. Of course, we are following legal rules and have never coordinated actions with anyone else. We are in contact with the operators and inform them weekly about illegal programs on the Czech stations that they distribute. Hope the situation will be clear after summer.

You also sit on CME's Editorial Board that supports the senior management of CME. Tell us more about the Board and what is the role it plays in the company?
We have worked out detailed journalistic guidelines for all CME stations and are monitoring the quality. We have done intensive image studies in Czechia and Slovakia and will meet in May with all news directors of the group to exchange ideas and discuss the latest trends, from „News on all platforms“ to the use of AI.

What is Markiza's digital strategy for this year? How many subscribers does Voyo have and what are your targets for 2023?
Voyo is our key priority. We have launched new original series and have prolonged our contract with domestic football Fortuna liga (Fortuna League). For the first time, we have produced an exclusive docu-series about the Slovak football club Spartak Trnava, the next four episodes will be released after the end of this season. Program and marketing investments pay off, we have reached more than half a million paid subscribers across Czechia and Slovakia. Besides that, we have relaunched both key websites and, and started a TikTok channel. Our YouTube channel offer has meanwhile more than 1.3 million followers, so we are active across all digital media.

Have you planned more original content for Voyo?
Of course. Soon you will see Vedma, the first Czecho-Slovak fantasy series, an amazing production with great value. I am proud to work in a company which is that courageous to invest into such high-quality productions. Our work is also about taking high risks. But we love our programs, and that is our strength: Passion for television in each form.
Matthias Settele (56) has been the General Director of TV Markíza since October 2013, leveraging his 30 years of experience as a TV executive, writer, and journalist. He studied literature and history in Vienna, published three books, and started his career as a reporter at public broadcaster ORF in Austria. This was followed by seven years at RTL Television in Cologne, Germany. He is also the founding CEO of SetTele Entertainment offering news, programming, and production consultation services in more than 20 markets across Europe for clients like Time Warner, RTL Group, and MTG. He has also held interim manager roles in Croatia, CEE, and Scandinavia/Baltics.
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