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Commercial TV in Greece is making money at the expense of public TV, but it ain't yet legal.

Greece represents one of the few countries in Europe where commercial television has virtually wiped out the public networks and is attracting by far the largest share of TV advertising money. The two commercial stations-- Antenna and Mega Channel--draw the vast majority of viewers, reducing the state services to the level where their "shares are actually hard to read."

"At Antenna TV, per the latest survey, we attract about 47.3 per cent of all advertising on Greek television," said the Canadian-born Costas Andreopoulos, director of programs requisition for the channel. "Our nearest competitor is Mega, which gets about 39.7 per cent."

The Greek government channels, competing to reach the some three million Greek TV households, are ETI, 2 and 3. They are, for the moment, the only ones actually licensed by the government. The commercial stations run without a formal license, but, explained Andreopoulos, it may come in the fall.

Will there be additional commercial channels once the licenses are forthcoming"? "Very likely," said Andreopoulos, "but we aren't worried about it. Right now, we are doing very well."

Greece also has a pay-TV service, TV Plus, but it's localized in Athens and still largely in its infancy.

Why are the state networks in such a poor state? "They are inflexible and slow, and they take a very long time arriving at any decisions," explained Andreopolous. "They've virtually been destroyed [by the competition]. There are hardly any professionals working there anymore."

ET 1 is down around 8.8 per cent audience share, and ET 2 has even 1ess--6.3 per cent. Mega Channel leads with 32.9 per cent, according to the most recent figures, followed closely by Antenna with 31.9 per cent share of the audience.

Antennas imported fare consists of a mixture of American, French, Italian and French shows, with the Yank fare predominating. Most popular are soap operas like The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless, according to Andreopoulos. Antenna also carries the CBS Evening News every morning, and it's the official CNN affiliate in Greece.

One of the most popular shows on Antenna is the locallyproduced soap (by Antenna) titled Reaching for the Light, which is brought-in on a budget of between $10,000 and $15,000 per daily episode.

In terms of absolute popularity, U.S. features draw the largest audiences, followed by soaps. While Antenna has the two leading American imports, Mega Channel has Santa Barbara. A couple of Brazilian telenovelas are also popular.

According to Andreopoulos, prices are rising. For instance, Antenna captured The Bold and the Beautiful from ET 1 simply by doubling the amount it paid for it. ET 1 shelled out $2,500 per episode. Antenna raised the stakes to $8,200.

Local Greek production by the private channels is growing. Last season, they backed some 38 new Greek shows of all kinds, which is a necessity considering the 50 per cent quota which Greece is supposed to abide by as a member of the EEC.

That limitation does not apply to the pay channel, which carries mostly American features (in the Athens area) and is partly British-owned.

Feature prices on the Greek TV are still quite low, running to around $5,000, and somewhat lower for TV movies. Dramas fetch around $3,000 to $4,000, and documentaries only between $1,000 and $2,500.

Figures for spending on international programs by the two commercial stations vary. According to one estimate, the channels shell out around $7 million to $8 million each per year, with the two state operations, mainly ET 1 and 2, budgeting between only $3 million and $5 million each per year.

Local observers say the Greek television situation is volatile, and competition on the commercial channels could well drive up both demand and prices. Meanwhile, should the proposed third commercial channel arrive on the scene, demand for imported programs would likely go up sharply, with the Americans particularly the winners.
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Publication:Video Age International
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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