"We have adjusted our budget"

TV3 boss Jürg Wildberger on the radical programming changes at his station

TV3 boss Jürg Wildberger on the radical programming changes at his stationRestructuring in programming by the metre - that's currently the only safe bet at TV3. Station boss Jürg Wildberger is convinced that only truly new formats have a chance in the Swiss audience market. With the new cancellation of various in-house productions, TV3 is making a clean sweep of its programming. What is your vision?
Jürg Wildberger: This is not a clear cut. These programs are coming to an end this season and will not be continued in the fall. We have to consistently focus on programs that show an upward trend in the audience market. We simply don't have room for anything else.
What lessons do you draw from the first seven months of TV3.
Wildberger: We had to acknowledge that no one was waiting for us. If you want to build an alternative to the established offering in Switzerland, you really have to be very good. Only really new things that are clearly different from the offerings on SFDRS and the German stations have a chance.
Specifically, what new shows is TV3 planning to launch in place of the cancelled programs?
Wildberger: At the moment we are discussing and negotiating. No decisions have been made yet. A lot depends on whether or not we get "Big Brother". If the show comes on, we'll have a strong program every day for fifteen weeks.
Shows like "Robinson," "Millionaire Show" or "Big Brother" can achieve short-term success. But once they're off the air, the audience is gone too. Such shows are not a recipe for retaining viewers on a regular basis. But TV3 needs them.
Wildberger: We are still in the start-up phase and need to create reach. Programs like this help. But we are also at a point where we have to create more solid structures so that people watch us more regularly. That is clear. That's why we're thinking, for example, of broadcasting the "Millionaire Show" regularly once a week in the fall.
These ratings runners are also insanely expensive. They can't be refinanced at all.
Wildberger: At the moment that's true. But shows like "Robinson" or the "Millionaire Show" have a marketing function. If we broadcast such formats regularly in the future, production costs will also drop. For the fall, we're planning to broadcast the "Millionaire Show" regularly once a week, and there will also be a new edition of "Robinson" next year.
TV3 has scaled down its programming investment in the months when advertising is weak. It's dangerous for a new channel to follow the cycles of the advertising industry. First of all, you have to attract viewers, and that only works with constant programming.
Wildberger: We also have to keep income and expenses somewhat in balance. We can't afford an expensive program that attracts a lot of viewers but generates little advertising revenue.
The advertising industry also insists on predictable and therefore constant programming. That's not possible if you're constantly rebuilding.
Wildberger: The advertisers want regular performances throughout the week that can be planned for a year or half a year. Unfortunately, we can't guarantee that as long as the station is under construction. Nevertheless, we are deliberately not changing anything at all until the summer. In the autumn we will change a lot of things again, that's right.
TV3 is not only struggling with its own productions. The big films also have too few viewers. Even blockbusters usually have a market share of well under five percent.
Wildberger: That is correct. We are not yet where we want to be here either. Films simply need time. Swiss broadcasters have the image of not showing good films. We have to fight against that and set an example. For example, we have now programmed "Titanic" at the same time as the stations in Germany and Austria.
But that will probably remain an exception. When it comes to first broadcast rights, the financially strong Pro7 and RTL will always be ahead.
Wildberger: As a rule, advance broadcasting rights are not affordable for us. Simultaneous broadcasts have to be negotiated hard. We're in the same boat as SFDRS.
TV3 is again talking about rising market shares. However, this is only due to exceptional formats such as "Robinson" or "Millionärsshow". Other shows have not made gains.
Wildberger: "Robinson" and "Millionärsshow" show us that we have a chance in the market with the right programming. In addition, shows like "Fohrler live" and the series "Eine himmlische Familie" are growing.
But such new, successful formats are scarce and the licenses for them are very expensive. A whole full programme can probably never be filled with them.
Wildberger: There are certainly fifteen formats at the moment that have the potential to become a top show and that we could do right away. But of course that's always a question of money.
And that's what's missing, as evidenced by the massive cuts to TV3's programming. The cuts happened shortly after your partner SBS was taken over by UPC. Can the current cost-cutting efforts be interpreted as a signal from your new co-owner?
Wildberger: Our current share price has nothing whatsoever to do with the takeover of SBS by UPC. The takeover has not yet been completed. What is certain is that UPC itself has a long-term investment strategy. And it needs content from Germany, Austria and Switzerland to do so. UPC wants to get into these countries.
But you're more frugal with your funds, that's obvious.
Wildberger: We have to try to keep income and expenses in balance. Our advertising revenues are lower than planned. Of course, that also has an impact on the budget.
Originally, TV3 had an annual budget of CHF 73 million. By how much did you cut it back?
Wildberger: We have adjusted our budget to the lower revenues. But I can't give you any figures.
Have you also revised your market share targets? Before the launch of TV3, there was talk of a market share of 10 to 15 percent in three years. That no longer seems realistic at the moment?
Wildberger: Our target is still a market share of ten percent, and at the moment the ratings are rising.
TV3 not only has problems with its programming. Now Bakom is also coming to clarify whether TV3 is in breach of its licence by cancelling "News at 7".
Wildberger: I am optimistic that the proceedings will end in our favour. Information does not only take place in the news broadcasts. We have a whole series of other infoloaded programs such as "Fohrler live" or the documentaries. Interview: Daniel Schifferle
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