Panel: Understanding market crucial

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COTTBUS, Germany -- Central and East European film producers must study the market well if they want to sell their films to the region's television nets, top commissioning editors told participants at industry forum Connecting Cottbus Friday.

Few specialized scheduling slots for European films and competition from Hollywood product across both pubcasters and commercial stations is making regional movies a hard sell, said panelists at the "Focus: European TV Stations" forum.

Meinolf Zurhost, a producer and commissioning editor at German pubcaster ZDF and Franco-German niche channel ARTE, said designated "art-house" slots were coming under pressure as public broadcasters were now paying more attention to ratings.

"ARTE's prime time slots for European movies will be halved next year and replaced by series, meaning ARTE will probably invest less in co-productions from 2007," Zurhorst told the gathering of mainly East European movie producers at the forum, a special event held during the Cottbus Festival of East European Cinema.

Germany's 30 or so free-to-view channels aired thousands of movies over the year and private stations had many designated prime time slots for such content, but the overwhelming majority of films were American or German, Zurhorst said.

The picture is slightly better in some of the emerging markets in former Communist countries of the east, said Tudor Giurgiu, head of four-channel pubcaster TV Romania -- which has the third-biggest market share after the country's two big commercial stations Pro TV and Antena 1.

"In terms of content and film, we are not looking for big blockbusters, but good European and art-house titles," said Giurgiu.

Under a recently adopted law 15% -- around $2.6 million -- of TV Romania's annual advertising revenue must go to supporting film funding body the National Film Center, but the broadcaster was entitled to spend half of this sum directly with local producers or international co-productions, meaning that more than a $1 million a year was available for suitable projects, he added.

Martin Novosad, a commissioning editor at four-channel Czech pubcaster Ceska Televize, which is a major producer or co-producer of local movies, spending around $5 million a year, said 88% of its broadcast content was European in origin.

The pubcaster had designated slots for European movies, mostly after the evening primetime in slots beginning at 10 p.m. or later.
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