ZAGREB: Croatian television is still struggling to find its way. The recent departure of several top executives and uneven results for attempts at new programming - as well as the declining audiences for some previously popular genres - has channels in crisis mode. Deep debts and editors replaced every few months at public broadcaster Croatian Radio-Television make negotiations over coproductions difficult, while commercial broadcasters are faulted for lowering standards.
Croatia has three national TV stations: publicly-owned Croatian Radio-Television, known as HRT, and commercial stations NOVA TV (part of Central European Medial Enterprises, CME, www.cnet-net.com) and RTL Croatia, both launched in Croatia since 2000. The result of the new competition over the past decade was the commercialization of production at HRT, and a populist standard of series at the new private stations. Croatian Radio Television, founded in 1956 under the name Televizija Zagreb, was famous across the region for its excellent scripted fiction series (Malo misto, Velo misto, Gruntovcani...), which are still being rebroadcast in prime time. The most poplar series were those with dialogues in dialect. HRT still produces new a few scripted fiction series, but more often buys independent productions for broadcast. However, the quality of new original programming is generally seen as lower than those produced during socialist times. HRT premiered the first original Croatian soap Villa Maria in 2004, and NOVA TV and RTL followed with similar programmes.
However, the popularity of Croatian soap operas, after years of high ratings, has recently declined, while reality formats including quiz shows and entertainment programmes are growing more popular.
Stations are still looking for scripted series, although they are more interested in format or reality programmes. The biggest coproduction currently running in Croatia is the Big Brother reality show, a coproduction with Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. This Big Brother studio is in Belgrade, but involves participants from all these ex-Yugoslav countries. Croatia and Serbia had a success with a previous coproduction, an adaptation of the Columbian series Ugly Betty (Yo soy Betty, la Fea), known in Croatia and Serbia as Ne daj se, Nina. Existing content is rarely updated - one such atempt resulted in failure: an upscale quiz called Kviskoteka, which lost the battle for audiences when it went up against new, more populist reality programmes. There are numerous national fiction productions, stations acquire licences for reality format programmes. In recent years the most popular were Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Weakest Link, along with reality entertainment shows Dancing with the Stars, Singing with the Stars, Next Top Model, and Croatia Search for a Star.
Croatia is beginning to see some success is selling its own local format programmes abroad. A Croation talk show, HRT's Piramida produced by Dubravko Merlic and Zeljka Ogresta, was licenced to Slovenija, Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Canada, with adapted localized versions of the show produced in all these countries. Other Croatian programmes were not so successful. However, this was an independent production, not a tv-station owned one.