Russia’s Channel One Loses Top Slot

For the first time ever, NTV’s audience share surpasses the network.

MOSCOW – State-run Channel One, Russia’s top TV station available to 99.3 percent of the country’s population, has lost its market leader position for the first time in history, beaten by NTV in terms of audience share.

Based on information from the local audience counter TNS, NTV accounted for 13.9 percent of the total TV audience, followed by Channel One (13.7 percent), and Rossiya (13.6 percent) in January through November 2012.

The business daily Vedomosti quoted an unnamed head of a major Russian TV station as saying that the decline was explained by Channel One’s targeting of a broader age group, 14-59, this year, as opposed to focusing on viewers over 18 in previous years.

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Meanwhile, the same report quoted Channel One’s general director Konstantin Ernst as saying that the company doesn’t trust TNS data and uses its own audience counter, STI, according to which the station remains on top.

This year has been filled with rather negative news for Channel One. Last spring, the station disclosed its financial data for 2009-2010, which led to the conclusion that the company was able to turn in a profit only thanks to subsidies from the government. A few weeks ago, the government allegedly slammed Channel One for poor corporate governance, referring to it as one of the most poorly managed state-controlled assets.

Incidentally, all the top three channels are controlled by the government and all of them have seen declines in audience share this year.