FNE at DISCOP Budapest 2011: Bulgaria

By Pavlina Jeleva

    Not long ago, Bulgarian programming consisted primarily of imported programmes from Brazil, the U.S., or Turkey. Within the last few years, however, international formats have become a significant part of programming for Bulgaria's TV stations, with commercial channels like Nova TV (www.novatv.bg) and bTV (www.btv.bg) leading the way. State broadcaster Bulgarian National TV (www.bnt.bg) has made an impact with its own new fomats as well. Now Bulgarian channels are turning toward domestic content, a trend which took hold in 2010 with the premieres of original productions on all the leading channels. And commercial channels are breaking new ground with the sales of original programming to foreign territories.

    While the sale of domestic original formats is still in the early stages, Bulgaria's TV market remains open to international TV formats. Commercial channel Nova TV (www.novatv.bg), launched in 1994 and purchased by Sweden's Modern Times Group (www.mtg.se) in 2008, was among the first to adapt reality shows. The Bulgarian versions of Big Brother, Star Academy, Deal or No Deal and most of all Who Wants to Be a Millionaire were immediate hits. Gospodari na Efira, the domestic version of the Italian entertainment show Striscia la notizia, also reached high ratings at Nova TV, before moving to the bTV Media Group's leading channel bTV, owned by Central European Media Enterprises (www.cetv-net.com), where it continues a successful run.

    The leading private channel bTV owes a big part of its popularity to adapted entertainment shows and reality formats such as Survivor BG, Dancing Stars, Music Idol and Fort Boyard. As the biggest players on the Bulgarian media market bTV and Nova continue to position imported productions in key spots on their schedules, ensuring high ratings.

    The popularity of reality formats has also influenced Bulgarian National Television (www.bnt.bg). In 2008 programme director Sevda Shishmanova launched the first important format show of the channel, Big Read. The concept was the nomination of 100 books from which the audience chose Bulgaria's favourite one. In 2010 the channel added a new version of the same format, dedicated to children (Big Small Read).

    Although adaptations are still the major attraction for audiences and advertisers, last year brought a new phenomenon in the local TV market. In 2010 the bTV channel produced an original family series, Glass Home. The series was initiated and produced by Sia (www.sia.bg) and Camera (www.camera.bg). Due to the extraordinary interest bTV decided renewed the serial for a second and third season, bringing on a team of five directors. The series also racked up a sale to Turkish TV in 2010.

    Following the wave of success bTV brought in another sitcom which quickly garnered high ratings, Metropolitan Citizens More. Coproduced by bTV and Dream Team Productions, the gentle comedy cast younger generation actors like Hristo Garbov alongside veteran performers like Stoyanka Mutafova.

    Bulgarian National Television also chose the Sia and Camera crew (director Dimitar Mitovski and producer Dimitar Gotchev) to head up the creation of the new and already popular detective series Under Cover. The popularity of the domestic production echoes the recent success of Bulgarian feature films at the box office, with several film stars appearing on TV shows.

    Nova TV has renewed its original sitcom Forbidden Love, another show which has attracted a foreign buyer, with a sale to Latvia's TV3 in 2010. Building on that success, Nova is preparing the launch of a new programme, with details still to be announced.