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NOVA TV CEO Dražen Mavrić: Local content and news guarantee Nova TV’s leadership

31st May, 2024

Nova TV Croatia will once again finish the spring TV season as the undisputed leader on the Croatian TV market. In fact, the broadcaster is gearing up to celebrate 10 years on top of the charts staying true to its successful formula of relying on hit local productions and a strong news program, as CEO Dražen Mavrić shared in his interview with CEETV. He also talked about the plans for the fall season and the strategy to grow in the digital and streaming segments.

Dražen, you have been the Head of the first Croatian commercial channel – Nova TV – since 2005. Looking back at these nearly 20 years at the top of the leading broadcaster in the country – in 2023 Nova celebrated its 14th year in a row as the market leader – what would you say is the main secret of this major success story?

People are the foundation of every success and that is something I will always highlight as the most important aspect of Nova TV’s success story. We have built a team that is capable of accepting any challenge. I could say that we were brave at our beginnings, and I believe we are still brave today when making important strategic decisions. One of the key strategies that defined our leading position in the market was our own content production. Another was that the news program became the central pillar of our programming. It was an extremely brave battle to enter because at that time, the public service’s news program was considered to be untouchable. In a relatively short time, we became the market leader and have held that position for almost 15 years in a row. I am particularly proud of all the people who lead the operations and programming of Nova TV today, as they reached their positions by growing within the company.

What have been the main challenges, how is Nova fighting rising costs, the general financial crisis and the situation with the war in Ukraine?

In all risky circumstances, our absolute priority is ensuring the continuity of business operations and protecting our employees. The power of business adaptability is most evident in difficult times, and I can proudly say that, so far, we have adequately and timely adapted to all challenges. We have a lot of experience in crisis situations, and regardless of various situations and circumstances beyond our control, which have arisen in the past few years, we achieve remarkable success. It is important to continuously monitor the market and respond promptly to the needs of all our stakeholders.

What were Nova’s most successful shows this spring?

We once again based our spring schedule on strong entertainment formats that have achieved exceptional results. This is a combination of proven formats that are popular with our audience, but we also produced some entirely new shows that have further refreshed the program.

The popular show Your Face Sounds Familiar with its eighth season is still the most-watched entertainment format of the spring, and we have also brought to the screen a completely new entertainment show, the globally known I Can See Your Voice. Our daily domestic drama series, Best Men, continues to achieve remarkable viewer numbers, and we are still filming new episodes.

What are your programming plans for fall, are you planning to increase the volume of original productions?

Of course, increasing the production of quality domestic content is one of our plans. What I can reveal for now is that we have new seasons of the hit formats MasterChef and Supertalent planned for the fall. We are also planning to produce a new domestic daily series, and the fifth season of the socially responsible project Startaj Hrvatska, which we are producing in collaboration with our partners. Additionally, we are developing new formats, but it is still too early to discuss them at this time.

Nova relies strongly on Turkish series in its primetime. What has been their performance during the current TV season and will you continue to rely on this genre?

This spring, we relied exclusively on domestic content in prime time. Our audience still enjoys Turkish series, which continue to have their place in our program. We plan to introduce some new titles soon, as well as the return of a popular Turkish series, new episodes of which are currently being filmed in Türkiye.

We see that RTL is actively developing the Voyo brand. What are your plans in the digital and streaming segments?

The digital segment is present in all its forms in our lives, and we were among the first to recognize it in the market. We are the first television network to venture into the development of special digital platforms, whether through our own development or through acquisitions. We will be working on further synergy between television and online channels through carefully designed projects and the promotion of exclusive content offered by our mobile app

I would like to highlight on this occasion a unique project that demonstrates the power of such integrated communication, and that is Kuglolov – an innovative platform that connected the online and TV aspect through a prize competition, providing a new experience of consuming TV content. This project, recognized both domestically and internationally (winning the Digital Media Awards Europe in the category of Best in Audience Engagement), is a step forward in the digital experience and integration of the TV and online aspects. We are certainly continuing the development of our SVOD service Nova Plus, a technologically new platform, in the second half of the year, as well as all our other digital products.

Have you planned the launch of new niche nets in Croatia?

We continuously develop niche portals, all of which are leaders in their categories. On this occasion, I can also announce the launch of a new online platform for classified ads in the Croatian market – Bijelo Jaje. This is a completely new story that we have started, and I like to call it a kind of start-up that brings new energy and growth opportunities to the market. We are very pleased with the launch of the classified ads platform itself, which includes numerous special features. In just the first week, it generated 100 000 active ads, and users can expect an even more advanced version coming this fall.

What are your forecasts for the Croatian ad market for 2024? Do Croatian viewers still love their TV, or is the viewership declining?

With the exception of the pandemic year 2020, Croatia has been experiencing a continuous mild increase in investments year by year, with television remaining the undisputed leader in terms of media investment, followed by online media. In 2024, we expect advertising growth, considering visible trends and events that will mark this year, such as several political elections in Croatia and the EURO 2024 football championship in Germany. (source: HURA, Media AdEx media spending.)

Croatians stand out as one of the leading nations in Europe in terms of daily television consumption. Last year, the average TV viewing time was 4 hours and 20 minutes. The most watched content includes broadcasts of the Croatian national football team, news programs, as well as entertainment shows and domestic series. When it comes to all of the content mentioned, Nova TV stands out as the absolute leader in the Croatian media market.

Overall TV consumption has been decreasing over the years, which is a trend present in other countries as well. However, television content is now also consumed via the internet, allowing users to access content whenever they want. Quality video content will always find its way to its viewers; consumption of video content is increasing on online platforms. Considering that production is what we specialize in, and we have the knowledge and infrastructure, it is not surprising that we are also a leading medium in that segment. It should be noted that television advertising is not under threat from digital media, and in that context, it remains a dominant medium.

Nova TV became part of United Group in 2018 when it acquired it from Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which later returned to the Croatian TV market by acquiring your major competitor RTL Croatia in 2022. How has this interesting change of ownership affected the Croatian TV market?

We adhere to our business and programming strategies based on listening to the needs of our audience, and we have always viewed our competition as stimulating and welcome because only healthy competition can drive us to further advance as an industry. Our fundamental strategy has not changed with changes in ownership; we share the mission and vision, and creating the best domestic content, credible, objective, and independent news programming, and strengthening the digital part of our business continue to be the main guidelines for our operations.

Nova is part of United Media which has channels in 8 territories. What kind of partnership do you have with other networks from the media group?

Although these are different markets, we strive to apply a synergistic approach to offer our users and viewers the best product and provide them with the best experience of consuming quality content. Sharing knowledge and experience within the group, which is the leading media company in Southeast Europe, is certainly valuable and contributes to fostering excellence in each country individually.

What about co-productions with broadcasters and producers outside of the group, any plans for that?

We successfully collaborate with both domestic and European productions on various projects, and we are open to all forms of cooperation that create added value for us.