August 7, 2008

Russia: News TV Channel Comes on Air in Perm in September

Text of report by Perm supplement to heavyweight liberal Russian newspaper Kommersant on 25 July

Pervyy Permskiy [the First Perm], a new TV channel to broadcast 18 hours a day via cable networks, is to be launched in Perm on 1 September. Experts say that the project will require considerable investment - up to 1.5m dollars for hardware and R3m [around 127,600 dollars at the current rate of exchange] monthly for promotion, so they doubt its profitability.

According to Andrey Vylyurov, media executive of production group Piligrim Video, who is the founder and chief executive of Pervyy Permskiy TV, the project launch is scheduled for 1 September. The new channel will be on air 18 hours a day. Breaking news will be splashed over regular patterns of content with repeats every three hours. The news programme "Perm" containing features, news reports, interviews, journalistic investigations, and no comments video, will be the basis of the TV channel's content.

Pervyy Permskiy TV will broadcast via the networks of local cable TV providers, Stream TV and Divan TV. A memorandum of intent has already been signed with these companies. "Now we are in the process of receiving a license. All the necessary paperwork has been submitted to the authorities. After we have got the license, we'll sign contracts with the providers," said Vylyurov. Initially, the TV channel will have an audience of some 300,000 people around the city. As the cable TV networks grow, the number of viewers may increase to 700,000, or 70 per cent of all the city residents, he added.

ER-Telekom, a company which provides cable TV services under the brand Divan TV, confirmed that they are planning to bring Pervyy Permskiy TV to the screens of their customers, but the broadcasting conditions have not been finalized yet.

Vylyurov did not disclose who is going to provide money for the project. "I am investing my own money and there are certain investors taking part in the project", he said. The channel has plans for generating revenues through advertising (using up to 15 per cent of its airtime) and carrying public image campaigns. Vylyurov also said that the Perm administration may place orders for social advertising.

According to the information available to Kommersant, structures affiliated with the first deputy mayor of Perm, Anatoliy Makhovikov, might be the co-investors of the project. Makhovikov is already the founder of an information consulting group, the Reason magazine, specializing in real estate. As reported by another source at the local media market, the project will be co-financed by the city administration. Makhovikov, however, denied his involvement in the TV project.

"It will be a great achievement if Pervyy Permskiy will be on air 18 hours a day, as in Perm there is barely enough news for a 30- minute programme," said Yelena Andreyeva, chief executive of Mass Communications Agency, which owns VETTA advertising agency. She expects the TV channel to face financial as well as viewership problems. "The situation at the local advertising market is really bad, there is no competition. They will either have to use dumping prices, or produce low-quality advertising," she said. On average, ordinary people only spend an hour in front of their TV sets, usually during prime time. "They tend to prefer federal channels with popular TV series rather than local television content," Andreyeva said. She estimates that Pervyy Permskiy TV might need to spend up to R3m a month on promotion.

CEO of STS-Perm [network affiliate of entertainment TV channel STS] Andrey Skorokhodov said the idea to broadcast Pervyy Permskiy via cable networks is logical. "Perm ranks the third city in Russia in terms of cable TV coverage, so the decision seems to be well- grounded," said Skorokhodov. He, however, thinks that the concept of the TV channel has not been worked out in detail. For example, Pervyy Permskiy holds immediate reaction to city events as one of its advantages, but VGTRK Perm TV is the only one which has mobile television studios. Apart from that, the TV channel will require 1m to 1.5m dollars to buy broadcasting equipment. "It would have been feasible to invite leading TV specialists who are interested in setting up a new TV channel to join the project. I think the heads of TV channels would have come forward," Skorokhodov said.

Originally published by Kommersant-Prikamye, Perm, in Russian 25 Jul 08.

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