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Q&A: Dmitry Mednikov, chairman, Digital Television Russia

mednikovVGTRK-backed Russian thematic channel provider Digital Television Russia (DTR) is at MIPCOM for the first time this year as it looks to forge international partnerships for expansion into markets globally. Chairman Dmitry Mednikov talked to DTVE about the company’s plans.

What is driving demand for your thematic channels within the Russian market and what genres have performed best?

We work across many content genres and in all categories our channels are within the top-3 category. Twelve months ago we launched Moolt, a pre-school animation channel. Today this is the #1 kids channel in Russia, it preforms better than many other international kids channels who broadcast locally.

DTR’s ‘Russian Romance’, a female skewed TV series and movies channel is another success story for us. We are traditionally strong in the factual content genre – we currently have an unmatched portfolio of seven channel brands, with ‘My Planet’ being the #1 factual channel. It continues to significantly outperform other international factual channels in Russia. Last year we rebranded T24 (Turbo channel) which now holds the fort as a younger male-skewed channel, with key content and programming genres focusing on airspace, military technology, auto and other flagship shows like Polygon, where hosts drive tanks or fly air-jets. Recently, we launched The ‘Living Planet’ channel which focuses on all thing wild life, and it performs extremely well for us.

What further plans do you have to develop your offering for the domestic market over the coming year?

We are constantly evolving as a local and international media business and invest research studies. We look at ‘audience preference’ and try to understand our hard-to-reach audience. We promote programming on the channel in the most appropriate way and try to understand the social trends in order to be in line with the coming changes.

We are at MIP and all around the world to source and bring to domestic market the best content productions. We are very excited about production from new markets like Latin America, China and India.

What brands, content and formats from your Russian properties can translate internationally and how do you plan to commercialise these? Will you focus on selling content, licensing formats or licensing channel brands, for example? What other products or activities could emerge from international partnerships?

We are in the business of pay-TV, so we operate on a dual-revenue stream basis – affiliate revenue and advertising sales is our focus. All our linear content has digital extensions like VOD, mobile and internet rights. And we creating an exciting experience with social gaming. Licensing consumer products and content syndication is another strong plan for us. We target emerging middle-class audiences and local production on our channels is very important. We have strong Russian pay-TV brands which are showing high potential and strong market share. We are open to commercial discussion in producing international channels for a Russian diaspora outside of Russia.

Linear channels – Moolt which will be ANI in Latin America. We are in the process of research and testing for India.

T24 and our Living Planet channel is set become a successful younger male and family channel. The format for our Russian Romance channel is great for female-skewed audiences; and we created a new international channel brand for our foreign audiences which is based on Russian ballet, classical dance and fashion which we plan to introduce to Asia.

Do you plan to market channel brands internationally as well as content formats, and, if so, which brands?

We plan to come to market with MOOLT, Planeta Vivo (Living Channel) and SERIAMOR a (Russian Romance).In each region it is going to be local brands and local programming strategies.

What specifically is planned from the collaboration with Prasar Bharati? Do you expect other markets to follow the same pattern?

This is very big and important project for us. Being a commercial arm of VGTRK we have strong social responsibility. Hence the areas where we are collaborating with PB

Closing the information gap between India and Russia. The more people in both countries know and understand about respective culture, technology, or business, the more educational, cultural, business, tourism exchange will all take place through this collaboration.

New marketing and distribution opportunities will boost local production and will give an opportunity for Indian talent to introduce their content in Russia and vice versa.

One of our partner company distributes ZEE Television portfolio in Russia and we see strong viewership growth and interest to Indian content in Russia. We are considering a partnership with BRIC programmers to grow our business domestically.

DTR has best expertise in creating channels for emerging middle class and DTR is excited to collaborate with PB which owns the strongest local content library to produce pay TV channels in India. This is targeted for a growing Indian middle-class audience, which is expected to grow up to 40% in the next 5 years.

What kinds of JV or partnership do you think will work best internationally in terms of the ownership structure, management etc.?

All markets are different in terms of local requirements. Our key principle is equal rights and strong vote in decision making for everyone at the table, and we should bring additional value to each partner.

You mention plans specifically for the Middle East and Latin America. What is your assessment of the opportunity in each of these markets and how can your offering be tailored for each?

We are company which has the expertise to create content for middle-class audiences. DTR offers premium content at accessible rates. DTR’s growth drives overall pay-TV growth in Russia and it benefits the entire ecosystem. Pay TV market penetration is at 90% today compared to 31% 5 years ago when we launched our first channel – My Planet. Our portfolio allows our affiliates partners to form sub-basic local packages which are affordable. This is where we foresee as an opportunity for us as a programmer, to work in collaboration with Latin American operators to grow the market up to additional 30% which is somewhat flat today.