Gospodin Yovchev: Focus of bTV Media Group is on video content and digital platforms

The Chief Operating Officer of BTV Media Group in an interview for "Capital"


Author: Sirma Penkova / Photo credit: Nadejda Chipeva

Gospodin Yovchev has held the position of Chief Operating Officer of BTV Media Group since the beginning of May 2021. He is directly responsible for the areas related to corporate relations, legal issues, content distribution and a number of other business activities of strategic importance to the media group. Yovchev joined the company in April 2014 as director of the Legal Department, became a member of the board of directors and executive director in 2017. He is also a manager of Radio Company CJ, a subsidiary of BTV Media Group.

Gospodin Yovchev has a master's degree in Business Administration from the University of National and World Economy and a Master's degree in Law from the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski".

The Company

The portfolio of the media group includes the channels bTV, bTV Cinema, bTV Action, bTV Lady, bTV Comedy and RING. Among the digital assets of the company are eight sites as well as the digital platform VOYO.BG. Radio Company CJ is a subsidiary of BTV Media Group, which includes Z-Rock, bTV Radio, N Joy, Jazz FM and Classic FM.

At the end of 2020, BTV Media Group was bought in a package deal by the Czech holding PPF, which acquired for $ 2.1 billion the then owner of the Central European Media Enterprises (CME) group with televisions in four more countries - Romania and the Czech Republic. Slovakia and Slovenia. The television companies were headed by Didier Stoessel, the former CEO of Nova Broadcasting Group, but bTV did not come under his control. Only the media group was separated into a separate company - CME Bulgaria, which is led by the Czech manager Lubos Jetmar. At the end of 2020, bTV CEO Florian Skala was replaced. His place was taken by the Czech Martin Svehlak with over 25 years of experience in the media market in the Czech Republic. In Bulgaria, PPF also owns the telecom Yettel Bulgaria (until recently Telenor Bulgaria).

The revenues of BTV Media Group for 2020 are BGN 132.3 million or 9.3% less compared to the previous year. The profit is BGN 23.8 million. Currently, the media group has a total of 514 employees and the radio group a total of 29 people.

The revenues of the group of "BTV Media Group" for 2020 decreased by 9.3%, which is approximately the same as the decline in the entire market of TV advertising for the year. What was the group's strategy for overcoming the crisis?

The focus was on protecting the health of our employees. The global pandemic has forced us to change the organization of work and rethink the way we shoot productions. We introduced program changes in order to provide protection for people, but also to meet the audience's interest, which shifted mainly to news content. And, of course, with the idea of sustainability of our business operations in the long run. The combination of these factors and the decline in the advertising market led to a decline in revenue, but stability in our market presence. I am proud that we did not lay off people. Whatever the strategy, it cannot be realized without a strong and motivated team. The staff of bTV are talented and dedicated professionals. Our journalists were at the forefront to provide timely, accurate and objective information to the public. The team is at the heart of everything that distinguishes bTV in the media market. For us, people are capital, not a resource.

What have you changed in terms of programming?

Some of our entertainment productions were stopped, others were postponed due to breaking news, special studios, increased focus on pandemic news. The following year, our focus then shifted to creating more entertainment content, which was seen as a need by viewers after the first year of the COVID crisis and forced social exclusion.

How did you end the financial year 2021 and what are your forecasts for this year?

The financial year ends at the end of March. Our data show that we have achieved the targets for 2021. This is due to the faster than expected recovery of all economic sectors, while we have increased investment in content to offer a suitable context for brands. The growth of the e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sectors, as well as the increased marketing investments of small and medium-sized businesses, have led to an increase in our revenues.

Our expectations for this year are to continue the trend of growth in advertising revenue in both television and digital advertising.

The business model of the media to be financed mainly by advertising revenues makes them vulnerable to crises when companies cut their marketing budgets. Do you think that the funding model can change and in what direction?

In fact, businesses that did not completely stop advertising and did not lose touch with their customers went through the crisis with less turmoil. For traditional media, advertising will remain one of the main sources of revenue, and for advertisers - one of the most preferred ways to communicate with consumers.

Global trends such as offering personalized advertising to the target audience within a linear TV service will come sooner or later in our market. At this stage, however, it is too early to talk about it, but it is something that will allow for even closer contact with the viewer.

Distribution revenue also occupies a significant place, which is directly related to our investment in quality content.

To what extent do ratings and revenues determine the content of television and to what extent are awareness and building culture and taste in people driving business strategy?

The popular phrase that "Content is king" means to me that the audience is king. The content is created, produced and offered so as to satisfy the expectations and desires of the viewer.

The pandemic has created new consumer attitudes. People are looking for more digital experiences and more entertainment. Our television strategy is based on the right balance between entertainment and serious information. When we talk about commercial television, this is the successful formula. For public media it is different, they have legal and program requirements and a function that implies more educational and social content.

Since last year, we have increased investment in entertainment content, and our strategy is based on achieving the right mix between tradition and renewal. Examples of such products are "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Survivor". "The Bachelor" is a new reality format and in a very short period of time it has become a recognizable product. In the prime time we launched a new Bulgarian series – "I'll Be Fine", which continues the tradition of bTV to invest in local content. We are also actively developing the radio stations that are part of the group.

Where is the place for current affairs journalism with so much entertainment?

Quality journalism and current affairs programming continues to be the main focus of the bTV Media Group. We are proud that during a pandemic, during a war and for another year a complicated political situation in the country, bTV news and current affairs continue to be a preferred source of information for our society.

If advertisers are looking for more entertainment content, does that mean less revenue from journalistic content?

We do not make such a separation. We see television as a whole product, as a generator of content aimed at viewers. Their needs determine the content. When we say that the editorial policy of television is independent, we actually mean that it is dependent on the viewers. The right balance of content must satisfy both the need for information, criticism and knowledge, and the need for entertainment.

What are your plans for your media portfolio? It lacks print media, have you thought in that direction?

Our focus and strategy for the future is on high quality video content. We invest in digital presence and development of online platforms. Our plans include creating two new sites. One will be with business, economic news and expert comments in the field of finance, lending, stock and commodity exchanges. The other will be a sports content site. Video podcasts are a format that attracts the audience and brings excellent results. We invest in products that bring a user experience such as digital episodes, 360 ° studios and augmented reality (AR) integration.

From the beginning of April, the group adds to its advertising portfolio two new thematic channels - Wness TV and Salt & Pepper. We are investing a significant resource in the technological renewal of the VOYO platform. In the next two years, the matches of the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Super Cup and Conference League will be broadcast on bTV Action, RING and VOYO.BG.


Author: Sirma Penkova / Photo credit: Nadejda Chipeva

At the end of 2020, bTV Media Group became part of the PPF group. At the managerial level, what were the challenges in building synergies with the new owner?

From a purely managerial point of view, my message to people is that any change is a potential opportunity. The increased investment of the group in content and the introduction of new formats is proof of this possibility.

Trust is at the core, and this is a process that does not begin when the change takes place, but in the initial phase of creating the team. The team, trusting both its leader and each other, finds its motivation and the right way to adapt to change and turn it into an asset.

Not long after the new owner came, there was a managerial change at the highest level. Ladislav Bartonicek took over the management of the PPF holding company after the tragic death of the owner Petr Kellner. Was there an impact on the management model of bTV Media Group?

PPF is a stable group with an established structure and presence in 25 markets and despite the great sadness the group managed to adapt quite quickly so as not to affect the continuation of normal business operations. It is a long process of work, of building structures, of forming leaders who are able to cover a gap at any moment, if one arises.

On what principle does the bTV group work with the media from other markets owned by PPF? Do you have common projects, do you share content, journalists?

There is an exchange of experience, ideas, concepts and practices. The audiences are different, in some of the territories the entertainment content is leading, and here the news content is in great demand. Sometimes we experiment with successful models in other countries.

We exchange news content. For example, we now have a permanent correspondent in Brussels for the forthcoming Czech Presidency of the European Union, and teams in all markets can rely on a field source. A bTV News team was in Kyiv in the early days of the war and provided information to all media in the group.

What kind of manager would you choose, do you believe more in horizontal or vertical team management?

My approach is people-oriented. Whatever the strategy of an organization, it cannot be realized without a strong team. The media environment is specific and not everyone can grow well in such dynamics. For me as a manager, the team is always at the heart of everything. I accept myself as a member of the team regardless of the role I play in it.

What is the challenge you have faced in your career and have overcome?

The biggest challenge in my career was the decision to move from the telecom business to the media industry. I had to challenge myself professionally, gain expertise, upgrade in a new field and change some of my approaches and understandings of the business environment. It was an exciting process that taught me many lessons.

Has education helped you in your career, or is practical experience the best teacher?

Education, combined with a lot of effort and experience, is the specific mix that has helped me develop. One is not possible without the other. Every career is a lifelong learning process. In various jobs, I have come across many managers who have wanted to develop me, invest in me and teach me.



Should companies take positions on socially important or political issues?

Companies are placed in the context of their time. You cannot separate and differentiate yourself from what is happening around you. From the point of view of the media, as well as for any other business, the consumer is the one who sets the agenda. It is impossible for any company to differentiate itself from the agenda of the consumers for whom it creates its products or services.

Do you have an example that you follow at the managerial level?

There are many people I admire and have given me know-how. Many of them are not world-famous managers, but they are those who have given me valuable lessons - professional and personal. I want to be able to learn, to take the best from these people and combine it with what I represent as a person so that I can carry my individuality.

How do you relax outside of work? Do you have hobbies?

I have a hard time finding a balance between work and leisure. With the phone next to me, it's almost impossible to get away from work, but what I do gives me satisfaction. However, I try to find time for personal activities and time for my loved ones. I try to play sports, which helps not only physical but also mental health. I also love to travel.

What was the last book you read?

I'm reading Dune now. I recently reread Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

The original article is published in Capital.bg