BUDAPEST: When it comes to TV, Hungary prefers to go it alone. Without any natural linguistic partners and lacking the strong regional ties shared by Czechs and Slovaks, the Balkans, or the Baltics, Hungarians have forged their own path. Even the commercial channels which are part of large international TV groups assert their independence when it comes to programming. It’s a trend that has become more apparent in recent years, as Hungarian tastes have moved from films, to imported U.S. series, to locally produced programmes and formats. But maybe Hungarian tastes aren’t so specialized; foreign buyers have begun showing an interest in new domestic Hungarian productions.
RTL Klub (www.rtlklub.hu ), part of the RTL Group (www.rtlgroup.com ), prefers to buy reality formats and produce its own versions, but acquires foreign series for rebroadcast. "Formats have the best results," says acquisitions manager Edina Balough. While foreign series might attract 20-30% shares, the station's own programmes can achieve 40%. That made The X Factor the station's biggest hit of 2010, along with strong results for Come Dine with Me and the channels' original talent show, A Star is Born. Real World, a Big Brother type show now in its fourth season, was produced in-house and did very well, with discussions ongoing regarding sale of the format to other CEE territories.
"In Hungary, audiences generally prefer imported fiction series," Balough says. Locally produced series have failed to connect with viewers. One exception is the German soap opera Among Friends which was remade for Hungarian audiences. The series, which has run for 10 years, has been one of the channel's best shows, with a stable and loyal viewing public.
The newest trend at RTL Klub is imported Turkish and Greek series. "It's amazing," Balough says. "Croatia's RTL station had success with them first." On 1 April 2011, the series Ezel began broadcasting, bringing in a 28% share. RTL Klub is planning to buy two or three more Turkish series.
While Balough credits the success of the RTL Group's stations to the independence it allows in acquisitions and programming, spokesperson Patricia Devenyi makes much the same case for rival commercial channel TV2 (tv2.hu ), part of the German ProSiebenSat1 group (www.prosiebensat1.com ). "Brainstorming and cooperation is very intensive among the TV stations of the ProSiebenSat.1 Group - we share our ideas and our local formats with each other," she notes. However, the Hungarian channel currently has no coproductions with its partner stations. TV2 has stayed away from acquiring scripted formats, but does look for reality formats such as Deal or No Deal and Money Drop, its top performing adaptations.
TV2 prefers to develop its own formats. "In Hungary, local shows are the most popular among TV viewers," according to Devenyi. The channel's biggest hit in spring 2011 has been Great Duet, a locally produced celebrity duet show based on an original TV2 concept. The format has celebrity duos competing with each other - each duo consist of a professional singer and an amateur - for the title "Duet of the Year." The station's biggest success has been Stars Gone Crazy, a celebrity game show. It has been picked up by SevenOne International, the sales arm of ProSiebenSat1, as has TV2's celebrity dating show, Sweet Foursome.
HBO Hungary (www.hbo.hu ) is part of the HBO Central Europe group (www.hbo-centraleurope.com ), but it, too, operates independently of its partner stations. HBO Hungary began producing original programmes in 2007 with a comedy series, Born Loser, and moved into producing documentaries in 2009. "This year HBO Hungary is producing its first scripted series Társas játék, an adaptation of the Armoza format entitled Shall we Kiss," says HBO CE spokesman Gerry Buckland. Up next is a Hungarian version of the In Treatment format, which has already been produced by HBO stations in Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
More original and adapted content is in the works for HBO, in Hungary and across the region. "The plan for HBO Central Europe in the coming years is to find local original scripts for development in Hungary and the other production centres within the HBO Central Europe group that would eventually result in such content - we continually research concepts and negotiate the acquisition of book rights which we think will make good television," Buckland tells FNE. "HBO Central Europe continues to look for documentary projects that reflect the portrayal of life and events in Eastern and Central Europe; we are also exploring drama projects and formats that will appeal to the audiences in the fourteen countries where HBO Central Europe broadcasts."