FNE at DISCOP Budapest 2011: Estonia

By Martin Aadamsoo

    TALLINN: Estonia's three national broadcasters, public broadcaster Estonian TV (ETV, etv.err.ee, operated under ERR which also runs a national radio network),and foreign-owned commercial channels TV3 (www.tv3.ee) owned by Modern Times Group (www.mtg.se) and Kanal 2 (www.kanal2.ee) owned by Schibsted (www.schibsted.com), vary widely in their original and adapted content production. All three operate one flagship TV channel and secondary niche channels targeted at select audiences - which, though forced to cut back during the recent financial crisis, could potentially increase in coming years. But one standard holds true for all the stations: ignoring local content imperils ratings.

    National broadcaster ETV airs the largest share of local product, followed by Kanal 2, currently the market leader by audience share, and followed by TV3 which has been minimizing local content for years with audience share slipping steadily.

    Even before the restoration of its independence in early 1990's, Estonia has been produced original series and sitcoms, some of which are nearing their 20th anniversary. Broadcasters began commissioning foreign formats starting with popular reality shows modeled on the likes of Survivor,and Strictly Ballroom. To date, only reality formats have been remade for Estonian audiences. Scripted fiction series have yet to enter the market. The domination of imported and homegrown reality formats was rolled back in mid-2010 and with left on Estonian airways currently.

    Kanal 2 has been the leader in importing commercial formats and creating original domestic hit series. It is currently airing three new domestic series:

    • Crime series Kelgukoerad / Sled Dogs

    • Youth series Ühikarotid / Dorm Rats

    • Female audience targeted Pilvede all / Under the Clouds

    TV3 is broadcasting four domestic drama series:

    • Female audience targeted Unistuste agentuur / The Agency of Dreams

    • Sitcom Kälimehed / Next of Kin

    • Comedy action Kättemaksukontor / The Vengeance Bureau

    • Kodu keset linna / Home in the City (intermittently airing since 2003)

    ETV has the longest history of domestic series, headed by Õnne 13 (Fortune Street 13) which first aired in 1993. One of the most interesting local developments is ETV's production of a miniseries based on the school violence-themed Estonian feature film by Ilmar Raag, The Class, currently airing.

    All drama series in Estonia are currently produced with only domestic finances and participation. However, some previously aired reality shows did involve foreign co-production partners, including the Survivor-based series Robinsonid which was produced jointly with Latvia and Lithuania.

    Estonian series have had very modest foreign sales, which are seen as peripheral to domestic audience ratings.