Last year, Nova TV ranked first in the ratings for young viewers, but it has been stagnating for a long time. In recent years, it has struggled to maintain its lead over its rival Prima but both commercial TV groups are slightly behind the public Czech Television in overall ratings.
One of the steps that could bring Nova back to its former television prominence was the election of a new Programming Director, Silvia Majeská. When she joined the station more than two years ago, Nova was undergoing a digital transformation.
What changes were involved?
We launched primarily our streaming pay platform Voyo, which was the initial vision for the whole transformation. We expanded the development team, ramped up production, and started building a product proposition for Voyo Originál, which saw us bring out eleven feature series or miniseries in about twenty months.
But we are also going digital internally: we are trying to automate processes and incorporate new technologies that will make our work easier.
Previously, TV viewers had only a few channels and one platform. How does television work today?
Things have changed dramatically since I started working in the television environment. We used to deal with physical videotapes on which we screened films, then DVDs came along, followed by the digitisation of whole material libraries, these were huge changes.
Before that, one had turned on the TV and had the same programme set as the night before. Nowadays, most people have a smart TV, they turn it on, they have apps... It is a completely different way of consuming content, with more use of mobiles and tablets.
A couple of years ago, we launched secondary stations to support the multi-channel environment and give viewers a choice. But people are still looking for a source of entertainment and they like good content. They like to watch good stories, that is not changing.
And do you think a classic TV can cope with it?
I think there will always be room for it. Of course, we can debate what target audience will watch linear TV providing more passive entertainment - that is, when I turn on the TV, a show will pop up and I either like it or switch to another one.
Video platforms provide an active style of viewing, one has to make a deliberate choice. And we know from global surveys that many consumers of content in the digital world struggle to navigate the content on offer and choose something for themselves. Classic TV will always have its place, depending on the mood of the viewer.
What makes Nova specific?
We have the strongest news service, the strongest daily series with a long tradition and our regular shows. We are the biggest and most successful reality show producer and we set the trends in a way. I dare say we currently have most of the local premium content.
One of my main goals when I joined was to strengthen Nova’s market position, increase the volume of projects in development, strengthen the thematic stations of Nova Group and launch a content strategy for Voyo. We have already come a long way in this respect and the results speak for themselves.
We have fourteen creative producers working under the direction of Michal Reitler who is excellent, so I think we are booming in that respect. There are a lot of shows being made and it is really great that we are pushing genres that were not on the air before.
This year, for example, we aired the new series Sex O'Clock on Voyo. It is a bit of a cheeky show for youngsters and for parents who want to give their teenagers a sneak peek. We have also started to produce reality-inspired crime series, which is another genre we had not covered before. We are developing documentary series, and we are also going to strengthen the journalism section.
How do you compete with giants like Netflix and Amazon?
We are local, that is our advantage and that is what we focus on. We want to bring the best local content to our viewers, in the local language. We understand the environment in which our viewers live, and we understand them and their interests. We know the historical and cultural context.
You mentioned the genre of crime series. Are those attractive for Czech viewers?
We can see from the viewing figures that the Czechs like crime series very much, and that is why we are devoting a lot of attention to them. That was apparent last autumn when we launched the final season of the series Modrava - it had fantastic numbers. So did Specialisté.
Do Czech and Slovak viewers differ?
Each country has its own specifics. Slovak viewers seek strong emotions, whether through reality shows or fiction content. On the other hand, the Czech viewer is more focused on internal logic. They look for it in the story, it has to make sense and be believable. For the Slovak viewer it is not so essential. Nor is the popularity of crime series the same.
How has the Covid pandemic affected TV ratings?
Compared to 2019, the number of viewers has increased significantly. As everyone was at home, it was natural. We are now back to pre-Covid values.
It is obvious that, in particular, the young generation is responding strongly to the coming changes in viewing patterns. On the other hand, the middle and older generation finds linear TV a more convenient choice, perceiving its benefits in passive viewing.
Has the demand for longer programmes changed?
During the Covid-19 period, most of the demand was for news coverage. People were looking for information, they needed to hear what was going on and what the latest government regulations were. We have adjusted our broadcasts to include live news programmes, which is generally a big benefit of linear TV: we can respond immediately, and we are flexible and relevant to a large number of viewers at once.
You are Programming Director of both Nova and Markíza. How does it go together?
The work principle is the same - how to set up the structure, how to lead the process of preparing programmes... Each TV group has a different programming strategy, and a different number of stations but they also have a lot in common in terms of functioning. We are working on several original projects that the TV groups are producing together and putting them on Voyo, for example.
Are you not in danger of burnout?
Working in television is so endlessly creative that every season brings new shows, new evolutions. My job is never the same, and that is what fascinates me about it. We have to constantly respond to current events, I am always learning something new, working with people who are inspiring and who push me further.
And do you manage to separate your personal and professional life?
My husband is a director, so it is challenging as we work in the same field. At home, we naturally talk about work as well and can understand each other. However, people who have young children will understand me when I say that children are a significant factor separating us from anything else.
When you are with them, you are attentive to them and their needs. Children come first.
Being so busy, how do you relax?
Physically at work. At home, I am too busy to sit down. My work motivates me, and my kids give me energy, they have plenty of it. Because they are still small, there is not much rest, but they are a lot of fun and I enjoy my time with my family to the fullest.