All Media Baltics – Leading the Change

Less than a year ago, Providence Equity Partners closed the acquisition of MTG’s media assets in the Baltics, announcing plans for major investments with a focus on digital development. The deal gave the new owners control over the leading media companies in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were united under the new brand All Media Baltics (AMB). The name of the new holding clearly reflects its ambition – leadership in all media segments.

The domination of flagship channels TV3 in each of the three countries will be used as a basis to create a new digital platform which is set to revolutionize the Baltic media market, offering unlimited opportunities in terms of content and technological solutions. We talked to Baiba Zūzena, CEO All Media Latvia, Priit Leito, CEO All Media Estonia, and Laura Blaževičiūtė, CEO All Media Lithuania, about the new strategy and ongoing transformation of their companies following the change of ownership.

Baiba, what has changed at your company following last year’s ownership change?
Eight months have passed since global asset management company Providence Equity Partners (Providence) acquired the Modern Times Group (MTG) businesses in the Baltics, Already at the end of last year, we began implementing Providence’s over 10 million euro investment program aiming to create a completely new entertainment experience for Latvia’s demanding audience. Our offer and our promise are to deliver the most demanded local and international content – from news and local shiny floor shows to the latest blockbusters from Hollywood till Russia – on the time, device and service most convenient for the audience. To deliver the promise, a unified digital platform for the Baltics is being developed. The second most important investment program project, which we are launching is TV signal and content production in HD quality. Our strategic vision is to become a technologically advanced entertainment leader in Latvia and the Baltics, we want to become the first choice of entertainment content for any user in our region. Our current digital footprint is very strong already with infotainment portal skaties.lv and leading local AVOD platform TVPlay.lv, and we continue the company transformation to become a true leader in digital entertainment and will launch the new platform already this year. 

All Media Baltics remains the sole commercial player of large scale on the Latvian market. Is this an advantage or does it create more problems than it seems?
For seven years already, All Media Baltics (AMB) has been the leading media group in Latvia. Being a leader, you must anticipate changes in customer behavior before the competitors do, and timely react to these changes by offering customers new formats. We have been successful so far, and the international media industry experience of the group’s investor, combined with substantial investments in technology, gives us good reason to believe that we will continue to be successful in the future. 
At the same time, the acquisition of MTG’s business in the Baltics brought along new regulations from the Latvian Competition Council’s for AMB in Latvia but we can live with that. We are confident that the business strategy– to invest in modern, competitive digital products and HD transmission quality combined with the best in class locally produced content offering – will ensure we continue to serve the needs of the most demanding content users as well as advertisers and other partners. 

Actually, your biggest competitors are the Russian-language channels. Latvia is currently preparing legislation to limit Russian content on TV. What is your view on this?
In the digital era, people in fact have unlimited opportunities to use any content they want, almost all the linear TV content can also be found on the Internet, so we do not support restrictions and bans. We believe that the only way to counter our neighbor country’s propaganda is through improving media literacy and strong local content offering. If market conditions remain stable and allow both public and commercial media to generate more content interesting to Latvian viewers, society’s self-esteem and people’s sense of belonging to the nation will enhance. 

Are you satisfied with the first half of 2018 and what were the main hits for TV3 and LNT during the spring season?
It has been an exciting spring season with a lot of novelties for our viewers. During the first five months of the year, our TV audience was 1.7 million – almost the entire population of Latvia. It is therefore safe to say that TV3 and LNT are the most popular TV channels in the country. We offered a broad range of infotainment content combined with various entertainment formats, from reality shows and local series to shows like The Lyrics Board and Your Face Sounds Familiar. 

This year marks two important anniversaries – Latvia’s centenary and the 20th birthday of TV3. We are celebrating together with our viewers, offering them wide range of entertainment as well as a look into pressing issues for Latvian society, for instance, labor shortages, remigration, social problems aggravated by the ageing population of Latvia. These issues prompt us to develop new formats and find new narratives within our broad news and infotainment programs. CSR has always been important for our group – as a medium, we feel a great responsibility and consider it our duty to be engaged in a dialog with society about important matters in our lives. So, for over 10 years, we have been organizing charity campaigns on our channels to help those in need and it is safe to say that we, together with society, are building a better Latvia. This past spring has also been special as we launched a new social responsibility initiative promoting children’s safety, Svešu bērnu nav (There Are No Strange Children), in order to educate and encourage people to get involved in kids safety on a very practical level. 

The TV ad spend increased in 2017. What is the current situation on the advertising market? How big is the digital threat for the TV players in Latvia?
Overall, Latvia’s advertising market is stagnating and growth in 2017 amounted to just 4% as compared to 2016. According to the Advertising Association of Latvia, the TV segment remained in the lead last year, worth a total of 34.27 million euros. Online advertising placed second –18.15 million. The amount of spot advertising was steady in 2017, which proves the efficiency of TV commercials in reaching out to a wide audience. 

For the past couple of years, we have been observing a phenomenon that could be described as “content explosion”. It means that consumer behavior, or the way they consume content, is determined by technological development. New technology offers new ways to ensure content availability anytime, anywhere, on any device, and in very high quality. This in turn leads to consumption of unlimited amounts of content. That trend in content consumption strongly correlates with the structure of the advertising market, where the segment of digital and various integrated advertising solutions has been growing at the expense of TV advertising. The strongest growth is observed in the digital environment, and it is important to point out that, besides a number of strong local digital resources, significant amounts are being invested in international giants like Facebook, YouTube, Google. As a result, the local media has to compete not just with other local media, but also with big international players. 

Your Face Sounds Familiar

How far are you in the process of launching your new digital platform? What should we expect?
Very soon, already at the end of the summer, we will be able to say that a new era has begun in the Baltic media and entertainment industry. After the launch of the new digital platform AM Baltics will change the ecosystem of the entertainment industry, offering unlimited opportunities in terms of both content formats and technological solutions. The platform’s content will be offered both free of charge and as a subscription service, apps will make platform’s content available on ALL screens – from mobile devices to the large TV screens, partnerships will ensure individualized content offers. We dare to believe that there are no analogs of our platform anywhere in Europe, definitely not in the Baltic region. 

What will be your content strategy for the rest of 2018? What are the new projects your teams are working on currently?
Captivating, honest, engaging narrative is the main driving force in the infotainment and entertainment content development. And that is the cornerstone of our content strategy – engaging our viewers with stories on how to bring positive change to the environment we live in, combined with a wide entertainment offering – quality shows featuring local and international stars, newest as well as all-time greatest films, most popular local and international series, live sports, or in other terms – everything our demanding viewer needs to fulfill his/her need for entertainment. 

The fall season on TV3 will see the return of the internationally-acclaimed show The X Factor on TV3 – the show’s second season in Latvia will get under way in September. The first season achieved record ratings and became immensely popular with viewers in Latvia. We will also start several new projects in the fall, including the local version of Big Star’s Little Star, giving viewers a chance to see celebrities through children’s eyes. The LNT channel will bring on series of events marking Latvia’s 100th anniversary, which we will celebrate on November 18. Finally, we will close the year with the charity campaign Eņģeļi pār Latviju (Angels Over Latvia), which has by now become an integral part of the channel’s Christmas program. 

Priit, what has changed at your company, following last year’s ownership change?
The biggest change is investments in new technology: HD transmission of our main channels and soon-to-be executed launch of web platform TVPlay.ee. Providence is very good owner as it guarantees our journalistic independence and development of our media assets. All Media Eesti currently operates the Number 1 commercial TV channel in Estonia, the Number 1 radio station and the Number 1 internet video portal. We have full confidence that under the new owner we will keep and strengthen our position. From everyday practical perspective people feel less bureaucracy and fast decision-making process which is especially important in the digital era. 

Bitches

TV3 led the charts in the commercial demo last year. What have been the results so far this year and what were the main hits for TV3 during the spring season?
TV3 continues to be the Number 1 commercial TV channel in Estonia with a 25% share of viewing in 2018. The total audience share of All Media Eesti channels is close to 50%. The spring season saw two main hits for TV3: the seventh season of Idols and the launch of high-quality historical drama Bitches dedicated to Estonia 100 year celebrations.

Idols had the best season ever with nearly everybody in the younger target groups watching the grand final (yes, young people do watch TV!). We like to think of TV3 as the creator of Stars in Estonia and a lot of new stars were born in the 2018 spring season. More than 50.000 people participated in the final phone voting during the final. 

The series Bitches showed that commercial TV can also produce high-quality series and do that profitably. The new cooperation model with Telia was used allowing Telia subscribers to watch all episodes in a row for reasonable price. 

The Estonian commercial nets left the FTA market last year. The process went pretty smoothly without any significant audience losses. TV3 recently launched its channels in HD. How are you planning to enrich your TV offer?
That is correct – the FTA market exit went very smoothly as there were less than 10% of the people in the country using FTA signal for TV viewing. We plan to enrich our offer by investing into high-quality content. The slogan of TV3 is “We are in the heart of Entertainment” and we take entertaining people to our heart and work very seriously. During the fall season we will add one new local series, two realities and one big studio format. Plus, we are investing in sports by showing Estonian heroes in the World Rally Championship or on the football field. 

What is the current situation on the advertising market? How big is the digital threat for the TV players in Estonia?
The advertising market has been quite flat in 2018 and that is disappointing as the GDP of Estonia is growing at a rate of 3-4%. The digital threat is definitely there as Google and Facebook have changed the market not only in Estonia but worldwide. That being said – TV still remains the biggest mass medium with the best contact price and most of the big players on the market know that. We see big FMCG companies like L‘Oreal and Procter&Gamble increasing their investment in TV advertising. What we also see is a massive increase in TV advertising from online retailers – they know where to get valuable contacts! 

Viaplay is among the most popular VOD services in Estonia. At the same time, All Media Baltics is planning to launch a new digital platform. Will Viaplay become part of it, or just complement it?
The plan is to launch a new digital platform which unites the current AVOD and SVOD assets and in addition brings in short-form content and TVOD solutions. Our aim is to become „The Coca-Cola of Video” in Estonia – we are everywhere, on all platforms, with our unique video content of best local productions, series and sports. 

What has changed at your company, following last year’s ownership change?
The biggest change for us was the start of high-definition broadcast. Actually, now we broadcast all three our TV channels (TV3, TV6 and TV8) in HD. We are the first commercial TV in Lithuania to offer our audience the best quality of picture. Bearing in mind that TV3 and TV6 show the most important sports events – FIBA Europe Cup and World Cup, UEFA Champions League, 2018 Winter Olympics and 2020 Summer Olympics, we are very happy to give our viewers this advantage. 

TV3 led the charts in once again last year. What have been the results so far in 2018 and what were the main hits for TV3 during the spring season?
In 2018 TV3 continues to increase its audience share. Compared to same period last year, TV3’s audience share increased by 4% and now accounts for 17.7% of the total viewing time. TV3 shows the most watched news in Lithuania and we also have strong entertainment content: popular shiny floors, evening shows, series, social projects and sports events. The most viewed spring events were Golden Onions (humorous political awards, 51.1% share) and the Euroleague Final Four Žalgiris games (39.7% share). The most viewed own production program was The X Factor (30.7 share), which attracts predominantly young audience and this year we will start the sixth season. Our local drama Women Lie Better also hits the top of the charts (25.9% share). We are also proud to have the most objective and most viewed news (30.4% share) in Lithuania. 

The TV advertising market in Lithuania is worth close to 50 million euros. Is this enough to support two large commercial players like TV3 and LNK?
The advertising split between the media is healthy and TV continues to keep biggest share of almost 50%. Even though the market hasn’t fully recovered since the crisis in 2008, now there are positive signs of recovery. As we are not only a TV broadcaster, but also run a radio station and internet portals, we are strong believers in cross-platform campaigns that should contribute to the market growth. 

Are you planning to launch new digital or pay TV channels?
We are constantly developing our digital products. With the new ownership, our internet TV will be relaunched offering our audience access to the entertainment and news content in the preferable format, in the preferable device and at the preferable time. We are planning to expand our digital portfolio to help us in our goal to take the leading position among online players. 

How big is the digital threat for the TV players in Lithuania?
We don’t think of anything digital as of the threat. We think of it as of a possibility. This point of view is probably our main strength. As TV players, we create a lot of audiovisual content which is the most popular and most desirable kind of content in the world now. Content allows to increase the value of any other services, so if we have at least several platforms (not only free-to-air TV), we can satisfy the needs of the most demanding viewer. We don’t think TV only anymore. We are a media group which covers digital as well. 

Are you satisfied with the first half of 2018? What will be your content strategy for the rest of the year?
We are happy with the results but we believe that in the TV world you can never stop and just enjoy the moment; everything is changing quickly, and we must keep pace with the market and viewers’ needs. 

Our main project now is the new digital platform which we plan to launch this autumn. These changes will, of course, influence our content strategy since we must separate and classify our content. If we talk about our TV channels, we are now finalizing our program for the new fall season. We have several ongoing primetime projects that are successful and will continue. We will show the sixth season of Lithuanian X Factor, we’ll have a new talkshow and we are getting ready for our big challenges – the 2019 Basketball World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympics. 

Women Lie Better

Laura, what has changed at your company, following last year’s ownership change?
The biggest change for us was the start of high-definition broadcast. Actually, now we broadcast all three our TV channels (TV3, TV6 and TV8) in HD. We are the first commercial TV in Lithuania to offer our audience the best quality of picture. Bearing in mind that TV3 and TV6 show the most important sports events – FIBA Europe Cup and World Cup, UEFA Champions League, 2018 Winter Olympics and 2020 Summer Olympics, we are very happy to give our viewers this advantage.

TV3 led the charts in once again last year. What have been the results so far in 2018 and what were the main hits for TV3 during the spring season?
In 2018 TV3 continues to increase its audience share. Compared to same period last year, TV3’s audience share increased by 4% and now accounts for 17.7% of the total viewing time. TV3 shows the most watched news in Lithuania and we also have strong entertainment content: popular shiny floors, evening shows, series, social projects and sports events. The most viewed spring events were Golden Onions (humorous political awards, 51.1% share) and the Euroleague Final Four Žalgiris games (39.7% share). The most viewed own production program was The X Factor (30.7 share), which attracts predominantly young audience and this year we will start the sixth season. Our local drama Women Lie Better also hits the top of the charts (25.9% share). We are also proud to have the most objective and most viewed news (30.4% share) in Lithuania. 

The TV advertising market in Lithuania is worth close to 50 million euros. Is this enough to support two large commercial players like TV3 and LNK?
The advertising split between the media is healthy and TV continues to keep biggest share of almost 50%. Even though the market hasn’t fully recovered since the crisis in 2008, now there are positive signs of recovery. As we are not only a TV broadcaster, but also run a radio station and internet portals, we are strong believers in cross-platform campaigns that should contribute to the market growth. 

Are you planning to launch new digital or pay TV channels?
We are constantly developing our digital products. With the new ownership, our internet TV will be relaunched offering our audience access to the entertainment and news content in the preferable format, in the preferable device and at the preferable time. We are planning to expand our digital portfolio to help us in our goal to take the leading position among online players. 

How big is the digital threat for the TV players in Lithuania?
We don’t think of anything digital as of the threat. We think of it as of a possibility. This point of view is probably our main strength. As TV players, we create a lot of audiovisual content which is the most popular and most desirable kind of content in the world now. Content allows to increase the value of any other services, so if we have at least several platforms (not only free-to-air TV), we can satisfy the needs of the most demanding viewer. We don’t think TV only anymore. We are a media group which covers digital as well. 

Are you satisfied with the first half of 2018? What will be your content strategy for the rest of the year?
We are happy with the results but we believe that in the TV world you can never stop and just enjoy the moment; everything is changing quickly, and we must keep pace with the market and viewers’ needs. 

Our main project now is the new digital platform which we plan to launch this autumn. These changes will, of course, influence our content strategy since we must separate and classify our content. If we talk about our TV channels, we are now finalizing our program for the new fall season. We have several ongoing primetime projects that are successful and will continue. We will show the sixth season of Lithuanian X Factor, we’ll have a new talkshow and we are getting ready for our big challenges – the 2019 Basketball World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympics. 

Article and photos from TVBIZZ Magazine, tvbizzmagazine.com

Contacts for All Media Baltics in Estonia

AS All Media Eesti
Peterburi tee 81,
11415 Tallinn
Estonia

Tel.: +372 6220 200
Fax: +372 6220 201
Email: tv3@tv3.ee

Contacts for All Media Baltics in Latvia

SIA "All Media Latvia"
Dzelzavas iela 120G
Rīga, LV – 1021
Latvija

Tel.: +371 67479000
Fax: +371 67479100
Email: office@ambaltics.eu

Contacts for All Media Baltics in Lithuania

UAB All Media Lithuania
Kalvarijų street 135
LT-08221 Vilnius
Lithuania

Tel.: +370 5 20 30 101
Fax: +370 5 20 30 103
Email: info@tv3.lt