FNE at DISCOP Budapest 2011: Poland

By Katarzyna Grynienko

    WARSAW: The Polish television market has grown into a dynamic source of original and adapted content, blazing a path for other CEE territories in shaping formats to fit local tastes. The result is high ratings from Polish viewers who appreciate the local flavor. In the coming season, Polish viewers will be watching everything from a localized version of Everybody Loves Raymond to MTV's Pimp My Ride by CocaCola Zero.

    Poland's public broadcaster TV Polska (TVP, www.tvp.pl) led the ratings race in 2010 with some of the most watched series: the original Polish shows L For Love (producer MTL MaxFilm, www.mtlmaxfilm.pl), and Ranch (Studio A,www.studio-a.tv), respectively in first and second place, followed by Father Matthew (BaltMedia, www.baltmedia.com), adapted from an Italian series.

    Localized content, whether acquired formats or original production, is key.

    "It's hard to talk about a specific trend in making programs or series based on foreign formats in Poland. We notice that is actually the other way around. The series with the biggest number of viewers such as Ranch, the soap-opera Pierwsza miłość (First Love), Dom nad rozlewiskiem (The Lake House) or Szpilki na Giewoncie (Spiked Heels on Giewont) are all original, locally produced shows. They are strongly based in our reality and are full of local colour. Even Father Matthew, despite being based on an Italian format, has a specific Polish character," explains Magdalena Łukasiuk from ATM Grupa (www.atmgrupa.pl), a leading television production company in Poland. The most recent foreign format production aired by TVP is Rodzinka.pl, a drama based on a French show titled Les Parents. In March 2011 TVP announced it will produce a second season of the show.

    In 2010 commercial broadcaster TVN (www.tvn.pl) produced the comedy series Usta Usta, a version of the British Cold Feet. Last year the station finished airing the popular series Majka, a Polish version of Juana la virgen a soap-opera from Venezuela. TVN also found success with a Polish version of Ugly Betty aired from October 2008 to December 2009. While TVN's rival private broadcaster Polsat (www.polsat.pl) notes better results with original Polish titles, in March 2011 the station introduced Life Line ( Bogota Film), a Polish version of the Italian soap-opera Vivere, and commissioned a secnd season of the comedy-crime series Skinny's Men (Studio A) based on the Spanish format Paco And His Men.

    A major trend in Polish television production is music and dance talent shows like Idol, X Factor, Got Talent, Dancing With The Stars and Clash Of The Choirs. "The first foreign licensed format that became very popular with the audience was Idol. Since 2002 Polsat television has produced four seasons of the show," Tomasz Matwiejczuk Polsat's press officer told FNE. The station had successes with other music -oriented shows including Jak Oni śpiewają (Soapstar Superstar) and Tylko nas dwoje (Just the Two of Us). In 2005 TVN introduced the extremely popular Dancing with The Stars. The station will air the 13th edition of the show in September 2011. TVN also bought the license to produce the American hit show So You Think You Can Dance in 2007 and is currently broadcasting the sixth Polish edition. In 2008 TVP introduced the Polish version of Don't Forget The Lyrics (Mastiff Media Polska, www.mastiffmedia.pl), with TVP2 currently airing its seventh edition. In 2011 the public broadcaster introduced a Polish production of the American Clash of the Choirs (Mastiff Media Polska), an instant hit with the Polish audience.

    Polish producers are not only purchasing licensing rights - with the wealth of new original programming coming out of Poland, they're also selling rights. "ATM Grupa had recently sold the right to represent the very popular Ranch to an Eastern partner. Currently our partner is adapting the series for it to meet the needs of broadcasters in Russia and Eastern Europe," Łukasiuk said.

    Foreign interest in Polish formats in general is beginning to build. "Our foreign partners are focused mainly on serial productions such as Pitbull, Londoners, Blonde or L Like Love. But the interest does not always transfer into a sale. The only Polish formats that we have sold abroad are Ranch and The Cop (Apple Film Production, www.applefilm.pl), with sales to Russia," Joanna Stempień-Rogalińska of TVP told FNE.

    Polish game shows are leading a new wave, however. "The Game shows Gra w ciemno and Awantura o kasę are the ones sparking the most interest. Currently an American agent cooperating with ATM Grupa is adapting Gra W Ciemno for the USA market. We are also discussing this show with the Vietnamese producer TKL. Several European and Asian producers, including members of the Sparks Network, are interested in our game show Eliminator," ATM Grupa's Łukasiuk said.

    Despite the popularity of the foreign formats, Polish producers argue that original productions can sometimes be a better choice. "It may be more profitable for the stations to invest in their own formats. If the foreign format becomes successful in Poland there is a restriction on the number of broadcasts, and the station cannot sell it further or exploit it in any way, such as airing it on its other channels," Łukasiuk explains. The chart-topping ratings of original Polish productions such as L For Love encourages the development of local titles. "TVP intends to invest in the development of internal creativity, by organizing competitions and pitching sessions to select the best propositions-- those that can easily compete with what outside producers have to offer." Stempień-Rogaliśka told FNE.

    Polish stations are balancing original production with foreign formats in the season ahead. In March 2011 TVP commissioned the first season of Aida, a drama series based on a Spanish format produced by SPI Film Studio ( www.spifilmstudio.com). ATM Grupa, a leading producer for TVP, is working on Polish versions of a Gallery, a soap-opera based on the Italian format Cento Vetrine; a Polish production of the Canadian series Sophie Paquin; and Druga Szansa based on the French show Second Chance. TVN purchased the license for Everybody Loves Raymond, produced for Poland by Sony TV. HBO Central Europe is producing a Polish version of the In Treatment format, by executive producer Anna Kępińska - TELEMARK in co-production with HBO Polska (www.hbo.pl). And, of course, talent show formats will continue on all the leading channels in the new fall season,