Estonian digital channel declares bankruptcy

By Martin Aadamsoo
    TV4, a short-lived Estonian commercial channel that emerged from the bankrupt Kalev Meedia group has itself filed for bankruptcy, an indication of the turbulent times on the TV advertising market.

    The owner of the channel and former director of Estonian public broadcaster Estonian TV (etv.err.ee), Toomas Lepp, has applied for a new broadcasting license to open a cable channel TV14, but the prospects for its survival in times of financial crisis remain dim.

    TV4, previously called Kalev Sport, was part of the rapidly expanding media conglomerate Kalev Meedia (www.kalev.ee ). The group was set up by well-connected business tycoon Oliver Kruuda. It bought up and established a range of newspapers, journals, websites and Kalev Sport TV channel in a spending spree some experts deemed unrealistic. The demise of the group was swift, with virtually all the groups platforms taken off the press and air in the beginning of the year, except for Kalev Sport, bought by its then-manager Lepp. The new owner changed the name of the channel and later moved it to cable to save on broadcasting costs, only to file for bankruptcy.

    TV4 appears to represent a textbook example of unjustified expansion in times of a contracting business environment and advertising sector. It may also foreshadow a string of further close-downs in Estonia's media sector, troubled by an estimated 29% shrinking of ad revenues in the first quarter of 2009.