BUCHAREST: MediaPro Pictures (www.mediapropictures.com), the Romanian-based production arm of Central European Media Enterprises (CME), is leading the way in exporting original content from Central and Eastern Europe. Thus far, 11 original formats produced by MediaPro Pictures for Romanian commercial channels Pro TV (www.protv.ro) and Acasă TV (www.acasatv.ro) have been sold by MediaPro Distribution (www.mediaprodistribution.com).
Among them are the telenovellas In the Name of Honor/Iubire si onoare, Gypsy Heart/Inimă de ţigan, Only Love/Numai iubirea and Little Angels/Îngeraşii. This is a major achievement for local TV channels, with Romania seen as a relative newcomer in a very competitive market. "If an original program is successful in Romania, chances are it might find buyers abroad," said Anca Budinschi, Head of Television Pro TV SA. She added, "Although there are many original formats, it is not that easy to sell them, given the fact that they need to be adapted locally."
As part of CME (www.cetv-net.com), Pro TV and Acasă TV have the advantage of working side by side with channels from six countries. "We have programs which we develop together with other countries. We use the same kit of original concepts, and we are looking to create fiction and nonfiction programs in the same production facilities," Budinschi said.
Other Romanian stations have not yet been able to duplicate MediaPro's success. For Anca Gheorghe, Marketing and Sales Manager at the public television, TVR (www.tvr.ro) Romania is "at 0.1 in selling ideas, formats and media production business." She noted that the legislation controlling the public broadcaster moves very slowly and that the station has not found a market for its productions, although it has sold a few.
Nonfiction is a different situation for the CME stations. "We prefer for now to buy nonfiction programs instead of creating them," Budinschi said. However, HBO Romania (www.hbo.ro) has made its mark with locally produced documentaries. The seven documentaries funded by HBO include the International Emmy winner The World According to Ion B. The investment in documentary production is part of HBO Central Europe's regional strategy.
HBO Romania, like the CME stations, has the advantage of being under the umbrella of an international company, with the possibility of producing local versions of international hits. In this case, the channel is creating its own version of the HBO series In Treatment/ În derivă, adapted from the Israeli seris BeTipul, with a show as rich in local flavour as an original series. HBO Romania has also produced a Romanian stand-up comedy show.
The Romanian stations are split on the subject of coproductions. Public TV is interested in coproductions, especially premieres. But for HBO Romania, coproductions are not a priority. Producer Andrei Creţulescu told FNE that HBO Romania is more interested in making "a whole production that we can totally back up and support. So we can have its rights, so if somebody would be interested in buying a format, a series or a documentary, we would be happy to talk." He added that HBO Romania is still interested in adapting, but is also open to producing an entire original series in the near future.
When it comes to adapting an imported format, the buyer has to be sure that it can be adjusted to the local audience, as with the HBO In Treatment adaptation. TVR's Gheorghe thinks that "a successful format is a format you can easily adapt to the market and the audience." The public TV station recently adapted the Endemol (www.endemol.com) format programme The Best Years of Our Lives, a popular show in Spain (on TVE 1), Italy (on Rai Uno), France (on TF 1), and also in Russia and China, under the Romanian title InTrecerea Anilor.
Budinschi, speaking for Pro TV and Acasă TV, thinks that the selection criteria are very important. "We are interested in adapting fiction, but we have to find the product with which the Romanian audience can connect. When you buy a nonfiction format, you can cast it with Romanian VIP's or ordinary people, and you can see it working; but fiction formats must be carefully chosen."
Adapting an existing format depends also on the type of the format. Budinschi says that if the show doesn't depend much on the cast, the cast can be changed; but if it's a popular show, changing the cast is a bad idea. For a nonfiction program like Dancing for You/Dansez pentru tine (a leader in the entertainment chart, with 951,000 viewers in 2010 and 8.3% rating) the format itself requires a change of cast, so the format adapts itself. Pro TV launched another talent show in 2011, Romania's Got Talent/Românii au talent, which recently broke all the records. It's grand finale on 26 April 2011 had a 71.7% market share of the urban commercial audience aged 18-49.
"Reality shows, adapted or original, are a trend now," Budinschi said, noting that reality shows are the most popular programmes on Pro TV and Acasă TV this season. Pro TV is looking for popular new formats, but also is developing its own fiction and nonfiction formats. Budinschi pointed out, "Original fiction is more difficult to create so if we want to maintain our standards, we need more time to develop those projects."
Budinschi knows from experience that not all the adaptations reach the audience. "No matter how good is an original script, the cultural differences can prevent it from being successful," she said, summing up the situation that applies across the entire Central and East European region.