Hristo Hadzhitanev: This Fall bTV Will Have A Greatly Enriched Entertainment Program

bTV Media Group’s Programming Director in his first interview for “24 chasa” newspaper

Hristo Hadjitanev has been the programming director of bTV Media Group since the end of December 2020. He is responsible for the company's overall program strategy. His professional path is closely connected with the television business and content creation. In an interview with the "24 hours" newspaper, Hadzhitanev revealed what the program look of bTV will be during the autumn televisionseason and what viewers can expect in the future. You can read it below or on the newspaper’s website.

Mr.Hadzhitanev, BTV has already promised to enrich its content with new series and reality formats, after a few years it refrained from such innovations and invested mainly in studios and current affairs journalism. What caused this?

BTV's programming scheme has always been adequate to the situation and the interests of the viewers in terms of content at all times. Especially after the year of the pandemic, when the news was naturally leading, the hunger for quality entertainment has returned in full force and we are ready to respond and even exceed expectations.

This means preserving and upgrading the most successful and beloved productions, returning formats that have proven their potential to viewers, and offering new original ideas to meet the needs of multi-platform content consumption. All this cannot happen without the enthusiasm, desire and support of the new owner of our parent company CME – PPF - whose main goal is to establish bTV as an undisputed leader in offering quality local entertainment content on the Bulgarian market.

What will the new autumn season be? One of the most interesting TV mysteries is whether "Who wants to be a millionaire" will be broadcast on BTV and who is its host?

The autumn season will be styled precisely in the spirit of tradition and renewal. We will offer a new family series, an old but golden TV format and we will traditionally bet on Bulgaria's favorite reality project "The Farm", in whose spectacular return we invest significant resources and creative energy. As for the old but golden television format, yes, it is "Who wants to be a millionaire". Thousands of titles are available in the format market, but those that have become classics are few and far between. "Who wants to be a millionaire" is exactly this classic, whose presence in the program is iconic, brings a positive image and enriches the audience. The face of the show will be Mihail Bilalov, who managed to win a lot of sympathy and successfully establish himself in the complex role of the host.

Why is BTV taking a game show that went through both Nova TV and BNT? Does it matter that until relatively recently you were the editor-in-chief of the BNT edition of "Who wants to be a millionaire"?

As I mentioned, "Who wants to be a millionaire" is a classic that any television would be proud of, and this is proven by the history of the show on the Bulgarian market. Even if I had nothing to do with this format in my professional career, I would always bet on it, because this type of production is extremely valuable. Commercial media are often criticized for betting on the spectacle at the expense of enriching the audience, and "Who wants to be a millionaire" combines the commercial attractiveness of the spectacle with the possibility of intellectual enrichment of viewers, which makes it an excellent choice for a national commercial television. attention and responsibility to the needs and interests of its large audience.

For the first time, BTV invites producers, who until recently seemed to be a "trademark" of other televisions, to make programs in it. Why did you choose Niko Tuparev's "Old School" company to realize "The Bachelor"?

The big television producers, working on our market for a long time, create productions in different genres, but it seems that each of them has managed to establish itself in a certain direction more than the others and turn it into its trademark. I believe that one of the main factors for creating a good television production is to connect the experienced producer with the most suitable format for him. When it comes to quality, I prefer to invite the best content creator who can guarantee that quality without being guided by other motives. "Old School" has a rich and successful biography in the implementation of reality projects based on personal relationships in a controlled environment and dating formats, such as "The Bachelor". The producer's experience in this case gives me confidence that the right balance will be struck between the beautiful and romantic captivation of the show and the interesting questions it raises, especially in terms of the times in which we live.

What changes are ahead in the program, Evtim Miloshev will also work hard for BTV, what is his company "Dream Team" doing for you?

Evtim Miloshev's partnership with Dream Team" is based on the same principle - choosing the most experienced producer to create a specific format that is most suitable for him. It is an indisputable fact that on our market Evtim Miloshev is the producer with the most solid experience in the realization of series, as one of them is the landmark for the bTV program "Capital Hillbillies". That's why the choice was logical when we decided to offer a new series to our viewers in September. The family series "Daddies" will be a production of a new generation - modern, colorful, dynamic, at the same time fun and emotional, with many new faces and an extremely close to people scenario. I am sure that very soon this will be the favorite series of bTV viewers.


When Slavi Trifonov left BTV, there was a lot of speculation that his place would be taken by Magardich Halvadjian's production company, which will do a late night show. That didn't happen, but will Halvadjian make a show on BTV and what would it be?


We have had meetings and commented on potential projects with Magardich Halvadjian's company. Undoubtedly, it will be valuable for us to attract a producer with such a rich and solid experience in entertainment studio formats. We may need more time to find the right model of cooperation, as much of Magardich Halvadjian's success is due to the faces he created, and yet they are the faces of our main competitor. But, as I think it has already become clear, at the moment bTV is maximally open to the production environment and we will offer cooperation to any content creator who offers ideas and can guarantee the quality we are looking for for the implementation of our selected projects.


In fact, instead of a show by Slavi or Halvadjian, the "Nikolaos Tsitiridis Show" became the late night show. Is it true that you saved the show from cancellation? Will it be available in the fall and will it be in full, or will it continue to be only half an hour? Doesn't this half hour runtime herald its cancellation?


The creation of the Nikolaos Tsitiridis Show is a very bold and correct step taken by the previous management. Perhaps the best thing to do in this step is to choose a completely new person for the audience with all the risks that this decision carries. As a quality of realization, the show is not inferior to the best world models. Another question is whether this type of show is appropriate for the current profile of television viewers. If we look at television only in the context of its linear programming, perhaps this fresh, provocative and dynamic show would not be the preferred choice of a more mature audience - it was created to bring young people back to the screen. But if we look at television in a modern sense, as a generator and distributor of multiplatform content, then The Nikolaos Tsitiridis Show proves to be an extremely valuable asset in our portfolio. The connection that the show establishes with the internet audience and users of social networks is unique, and the interest of sponsors and advertisers in the show is constant. This obliges us to stand firm on everything that has been done so far, developing the show as a multiplatform project. Reducing the duration of the show does not mean that the show will not generate the same, that even a larger daily volume of content, but it will be distributed on channels and platforms other than television, where real fans will feel much more -committed. The television program will also benefit from the half-hour format, which allows more dynamics, concentrated humor and focused content.


Is it true that Lora Krumova is leaving the "Nikolaos Tsitiridis Show"?


Yes, it's true, as far as I know, but I fully understand such a decision in view of Laura's professional experience as a journalist and the enhanced humorous nature of the show, in an even more dynamic multiplatform format.


With so many new additions, will there be room in BTV's program for "MasterChef" and "Home Makeover"?


As I said at the beginning of the conversation, our renewal in the spirit of tradition does not mean a drop in successful productions, but an increase and diversification of the proposals to the audience. "MasterChef" and "Home Makeover" are one of the most successful and beloved programs in the bTV program and we would not allow ourselves to imagine for a moment that they are not part of our air. Both programs contribute greatly to the image of bTV as a responsible national media, which skillfully combines its commercial goals with attention to the needs of viewers, making a solid contribution to enriching the culinary and socially responsible culture of viewers. So, without a doubt, MasterChef and Home Makeover will continue their successful presence in the program after a short break, during which we will invest additional resources in their development.


At the same time you are again preparing spectacular productions such as "The Voice of Bulgaria", "Survivor", "The Farm". What will they look like in their new seasons?


The Farm will return, more attractive and exciting than all previous editions, to a unique location that will set the theme of the season. Here is the place to share that we will continue to develop with new projects our successful partnership with the producers of "Medium Station", who have established themselves as one of the most talented content creators in our country and will play a significant role in future program updates. The Voice of Bulgaria will also have many surprises and innovations in terms of the main characters, and the casting so far promises a very strong season in terms of vocals. As for the concept and scale of Survivor, I can say that with its return, this format will show how important it is to invest in good content and how big the difference in quality is between betting on a big world format and you prefer one of the many cheaper versions that replicate its elements.


A new Bulgarian series – "Daddies" - is launching. It is also an adaptation, under license, as were "Dear Heirs" and "Scars". What will it be? And why does BTV lately seem to prefer this type of adaptations, instead of original Bulgarian series with original screenplays? Or maybe such screenplays are simply missing in our market?


There are several reasons for choosing adapted series. Televisions are in a special period in which, especially in the field of series, the competition is very high - it's not just about direct competitors in the television market, but also about SVOD platforms, which offer huge volumes of quality products. In this dynamic environment, licensed series provide some certainty in terms of choice, because they have already proven to be successful productions in various markets. Also, the choice of a licensed series is more adequate in terms of television programming needs. Producers usually offer series with a weekly cycle, in seasons of 12 to 14 episodes, but the needs of television are often associated with a larger number of episodes, which leads to the third reason. The realization of an original series, which is broadcast daily, for example, would be a much more complex and lengthy operation with a vague outcome than to rely on an adaptation in which the plot and images are clear and have passed the test of the audience in different countries. This significantly shortens the sales process and allows offering a quality product within a reasonable time. All this does not mean that we will continue to rely entirely on adapted screenplays. We are aware that the future is connected with the creation and offering of more and more original local productions in different genres, with different duration, with different cyclicity, and we will work hard in this direction.


BTV is part of the CME televisions. Is there any interaction between all these channels, do you exchange content with them?


The opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with colleagues from other countries is invaluable and the development of this interaction has always been an essential part of the CME's work model. In terms of content exchange, we also work actively, while realizing that we operate in countries where viewers are not always similar in mentality and expectations to the television production they choose to watch. Still, the performance of the Romanian TV series "Vlad" on our air is a proof of successful cooperation in the exchange of content, which we will continue. We expect the realization of new joint projects, especially when we talk about series and given the ambition of the group to invest fresh resources in the creation and distribution of local content with global potential.


It's been half a year since you've been in your new position. What have you changed so far and how do you plan to develop the BTV program in the future? What will happen to the monothematic channels that are part of the BTV Media Group?

In an international media company like ours, where the program is planned and prepared for implementation at least a year in advance, six months is not such a long period. We have already prepared a vision for the development of the program scheme and started to implement it. It is a great success that this fall we will have a very enriched entertainment program. But the most important thing that has happened, for our entire team, is that the new owner is committed to investing fresh resources in quality content for all bTV platforms, including thematic channels.

As I mentioned, the modern understanding of television puts it at the center of the media market, as an initiator, generator and distributor of content. Although the linear program continues to be the backbone of the activity and its quality is the most important measure of success, it is important to invest in creating products for VOD platforms, and they give more freedom to experiment in different genres, intended for narrower groups of spectators, as well as for offering productions with potential for international distribution. bTV opens up to the market and has a dialogue with various partners so that we can soon offer many more interesting projects and titles than we could bet on in our broadcast program alone. Another result of our work over the past half year is the formulation of a strategy for the development of thematic channels, for each of which we plan to create our own products and flexible models for the realization of sponsored content. In this regard, we are happy that the matches of the most prestigious and watched club football tournaments on the Old Continent - UEFA Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Super Cup and Conference League, and in the next 3 years will be broadcast on bTV Action, RING and on VOYO.BG.


Your predecessor Margarita Alexandrova became head of programming of BNT. Is it likely that both televisions will start looking for the same type of show after you are both "from the same school"?


Margarita Alexandrova is an experienced professional and a wonderful person, with whom we are connected not only by long-term professional relations, but also by great mutual respect. I can't help but welcome her appointment as BNT's program director, because she has the experience, culture and knowledge to best combine BNT's public role with the need to attract more viewers to legitimize that role, which happens through commercial techniques. However, I do not think that we will look for and offer similar programs, because the goals, strategies and tasks of the programs for which we are responsible are very different. I wish Margarita success in her new role and I believe that she will significantly contribute to the development of BNT. I am sure that the professional respect that connects us will allow us to find new forms of cooperation to meet the increasingly demanding needs of viewers and the television environment.


How and by whom were you invited to be the programming director of BTV?

The invitation came from CEO Marin Svehlak, who had read my professional background in advance. He asked me to present him with a vision for the program, and at our next conversation he invited me to implement it, taking the position of program director.


Until recently, you were part of major television productions - "Who wants to be a millionaire", "VIP Brother" and others. But now you're on the other side - you approve of which ones are best for TV. Which is more difficult? Does the fact that you know the television format market well enough help you now?

Invariably, experience in productions is largely the reason I take on this role, but it is significantly more responsible and challenging than anything I've done before. But the fact that I know the whole production process from the inside and I am aware of the resources, the creative talent and the time it requires, helps me a lot in making decisions now from the position of program director. My experience in researching and analyzing the attitudes of the public, namely when, how and according to what scheme it is most appropriate to broadcast a given format, also turns out to be invaluable.


In this regard, is there an option for "Big Brother" to start running on BTV?

"Big Brother" is chronologically the first reality format to achieve such worldwide success that it practically opens the door to the international market of television formats. Its story in Bulgaria is no less impressive, especially the version with celebrities. But it is this longevity of "Big Brother" that makes it, to put it mildly, "obsolete" because its concept is basic - the winner is chosen based on their behavior compared to that of the other participants, that is, the main criteria for victory is how much a certain person will be liked by the viewers more. Large formats, chronologically following Big Brother, require additional qualities from the participants, beyond the purely personal ones, such as the will, authenticity and physical endurance in "Survivor" or "The Farm". In this way, they build on the basic concept. That's why I don't see how "Big Brother" in its original form could be part of the bTV program, because that would mean losing the extra meaning we've always been looking for in our television projects. However, I do not rule out the emergence of reality with a similar model of realization, live and in an isolated environment, but with greater added value.


You are an Italian graduate in terms of television - that's where you graduated. What would you take for Bulgaria and specifically for BTV from the Italian experience?


Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Italian television is to never underestimate viewers and always turn to them when I have to make an important decision. When analyzing the viewership, ratings or effectiveness of the program, we must not forget that behind every figure, behind every percentage are actually real people for whom television is a source of information, emotions and experiences, and for many - an essential part of life. In this sense, I would like to approach the program with the confidence that bTV is the television that offers more.