Ralf Bartoleit: Viewers seek variety and quality formats, anywhere and anytime.

Television remains the leading platform for the Bulgarian market and a major generator of video content. The advantage goes to those who manage to offer premium productions, quick and easy access to titles and original user experience. The CEO of bTV Media Group Ralf Bartoleit gave an interview to the Capital newspaper.


  1. Bartoleit, how does 2024 start for bTV Media Group and what priorities do you have for the next 12 months?

I’m happy to say it started just like we wanted to. In 2023 we made a promise for full-scale changes across our programming - more entertainment, more original local content with fresh plots, great faces and personalities that span across the entire entertainment industry. Starting from January we already reap the results of everything we implemented: a 22% increase in our group Prime Time share in January with the start of what became a household-favorite show “Who Knew?”, and the selection of TV shows across our channel portfolio.

We invest a large amount of research in understanding the multifaceted audience that appreciates and demands content diversity: not only did we modify our prime-time program schedule in bTV, but we also gave a new home for all the romance & drama series that our audiences show continuous interest for. The rebranding of bTV Story in mid-December came with immediate results - the channel became the fourth most watched TV channel in the Prime Time in the country with a remarkable 3-digit increase in both PT and AD share compared to 2023. I’m happy to say that we kept our promise, which makes me confident that it is the start of a fantastic year.

As a leading media group, we cannot put one interest on top of the other, we need to create synergy between all of them through a holistic approach. What do I mean: the main driver of success in media is the appreciation given through viewership, but what drives viewership is content. Not just any content, but especially good and memorable content. It is all about story telling. About a decade ago a very popular American TV show taught us that “You’re nobody until you are talked about”. We work on creating the stories that everyone talks about - the shows that families, friends and couples discuss together; to raise the questions that get people running their mind and shout the right answer before the participant on screen does; to solve the social problems that people endure daily; to share the news that are relevant and important for society, and most of all – to entertain and bring excitement. We need to create talk about content.


Spring television season has already begun. What can viewers expect?

The new season is special on so many levels and the anticipation for it began as soon as we announced the programme – a full week of entertainment and powerful content over the course of the whole new season. Communication-wise, this feeling was built upon with every revelation we shared – the iconic return of Niki Kanchev as host of „Who wants to be a millionaire?“, the star-studded cast of Dancing Stars with each of the 16 participants having a massive following, supported by the glamorous sparkle and comic twist of hosts Alex Raeva and Krassi Radkov – both well-known from the bTV screen for years; Sasho Kadiev‘s return as a prime-time host on „Who knew?“ and a team captain in what I consider to be one of the most positive shows about the exceptional history and nature of Bulgaria - „I love my country.“ Speaking of positive, this is exactly what the show „Home makeover“ is also about – constructive changes and genuine emotional transformations for families in Bulgaria, and its sixth season is coming back with Mariya Silvestar leading a brand new brigade that feels like a family by itself.
An absolute audience – favorite and a global phenomenon, The Bachelor returns with its third season, set in a brand-new fabulous location in Greece and one man whose romantic journey will set the foundation for multiple off-screen discussions and vicarious experiences for everyone watching. The hype from all reality shows will be topped off with Sunday episodes of „Sunny Beach“ and a brand new Bulgarian crime series – ALPHA.

All of that every week – I‘d say viewers can expect a substantial range of content and a readily available answer to the question we all ask ourselves every day – „What will I watch tonight?“ We want to bring our shows and formats into the hearts and the heads of the Bulgarians. We want to create a feeling that you miss something in your daily life by not watching bTV and all our other channels.


You have serious experience in media business and international market. Can you tell us what the modern consumer is looking for?

We live in interesting times – both as humans and as media businesses. The entertainment industry with all its branches has been around for decades, but never it has been so closely monitored, evaluated, and challenged. And I say this with a smile because all of it can only motivate and encourage us to move forward – as a media business, and as an industry. Consumers today are not only more informed than ever, but they have a range of options, opportunities and choices that have not been available before –products, services, career paths, relationships, travel destinations, entertainment. Streaming platforms have created an additional pool of choice, which has made it even more difficult for audiences to watch one title from start to finish instead of browsing through the entire catalogue. This „paradox of choice“, as the eponymous book goes, is making the modern consumer more demanding in the search for a decisive option, but also very difficult to be satisfied. At some point even the amount of products and content that exists becomes insufficient. And that is when a fundamental observation comes along – people will always be inspired by what touches upon their emotions. In the age of abundance, we paradoxically value simplicity – not in form, but in feeling. Content should grab the initial attention with its visual presentation, but in order to become timeless it needs to respond to the range of human emotions – love, laugh, drama, action, surprise, shock, adventure and all of their nuances. I‘m confident to say we work on addressing them all. And after all, when I come back to my international experience: the TV market in Bulgaria is in the centre, in the heart of Europe. What do I mean:  I can bring a lot of programming ideas from other Euopean markets, especially from Germany to this market. Many of the shows function in a very similar way. Latest success example is „Who knew?“, which we have chosen also because of the very good performance in Germany.


What place do thematic channels have in bTV's portfolio?

As a media group, we always consider the holistic picture – not only because we believe it is the right way, but because the media landscape is dynamic. Just like a leader is nothing without its followers, we are happy to say that bTV Media Group has a strong portfolio of thematic channels that not only support the main channel, bTV, but also exist independently from it, each having a very precise role in every Bulgarian household. Viewers can watch premium premiere content on bTV Cinema, bTV Action, bTV Comedy, bTV Story or RING sometimes even well before it airs on bTV. Sports has a safe home in both bTV Action and RING, with exclusive content generated for both channels. Some of the best movies and TV shows come to bTV Cinema and bTV Comedy soon after their original premieres. And bTV Story is now the established home of European and Asian content that audiences from all ages have access to. We believe in diversity – in titles, in content and in the diversity of our portfolio, which is why we look at bMG. And a whole need all of its parts.


The full interview can be read in the Capital newspaper of 23.02.2024.