Local content, partnerships key to Russia

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CANNES -- U.S. studios hoping to tap into Russia's burgeoning television market will have to do it via partnerships and with local content or find the doors firmly closed, the head of Russia's biggest commercial broadcaster said Tuesday.

Alexander Rodnyansky, CEO of CTC Media, which operates the fourth-biggest free-to-air broadcaster in Russia, said that, despite the success of U.S. programming around the world, it is not securing primetime hits in Russia. But while imported fare is not popular with Russian audiences, he said that formatted shows and made-for-Russian content are the best ways to reach the nation's vast audiences.

"This is a market driven by local product. You have huge international series like 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Monk' and they are not delivering results comparable to Russian shows," he said. "We have very few American series and they don't do well in primetime. They don't work."

Russia's advertising market is forecast to be the biggest in Europe within five years, according to research from Informa Media and Telecoms, leading to a slew of studios including Warner Bros., Sony and Disney launching offices, dedicated sales teams and joint venture production partnerships in the region.

"We are very advanced in terms in terms of localizing formats, and lots of the networks have invested in joint ventures or adapted their programs for the Russian market," he said, pointing to such successful format adaptations as "The Nanny," "Law and Order" and "Who's the Boss."

"We need the expertise and strong potential of the studios and we have learned a lt of things from working together," he added.

Launched in 1989, the Nasdaq-listed broadcaster is majority owned by Modern Times Group and Alfa Group and is capitalized at just over $4.5 billion. CTC has a sister channel, Domashny, and is in the process of acquiring a third network, DTV.

It has about a 13% audience share and 16% of the commercial market.
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