Стефана Здравкова
Стефана Здравкова / NOVA / Красена Ангелова
In this interview with Yako Molhov for CEETV, Zdravkova talks about the new TV season, the state of the media market and Nova’s plans and strategies for growth
Stefana Zdravkova became the CEO of Nova Broadcasting Group just a few months ago but is already busy with the next stage in the development of the media company which currently leads the TV and online market in Bulgaria. In this interview with Yako Molhov, she talks about the new TV season, the state of the media market and Nova’s plans and strategies for growth. 

Stefana, you were appointed as Nova Broadcasting Group's new CEO in May this year. Can you name some of the major challenges you have faced in your first few months in office? When I took over Nova Broadcasting Group’s (NBG’s) management, it was in excellent condition, and I am grateful to Mr. Dirk Gerkens for that and to United Media for the opportunity. My immediate tasks after my appointment had to do with the forthcoming technological modernization and the relocation of the company to a new building, on one hand, and with the development of the TV programs, on the other. The evidence of the latter comes in the form of Nova’s new season with four brand new productions, which are making their debut on the Bulgarian TV air. So, viewers are in for an amazing experience.

Nova has invested heavily in content for the past year. What were your rating figures in spring? Can you name your best-rated shows? Nova proved its position as the most watched TV channel in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic. At the end of the spring TV season, the ratings showed complete primetime domination with an average audience share of nearly 28%. The second-ranked television’s audience share was 10 percentage points lower than ours. All five key productions running in the primetime had top rankings. Your Face Sounds Familiar, Bulgaria’s most watched entertainment show, attracted an average of twice more viewers than the second television in the ranking. Nova also outpaced its competition in the ratings of the two Bulgarian series, The Lies Within Us and Brothers, as well as the third season of the format Power Couple, and the fourth season of cooking reality show Hell’s Kitchen Bulgaria. 

Starstruck, Anything Goes, The Chase are just some of the new shows you will be premiering this fall... What is your programming strategy for the peak TV season? Where will you put your focus – on entertainment shows or fiction productions? This fall, Nova is once again setting the highest standard. We are offering a strong and versatile TV season, demonstrating our commitment to invest in both – the premiere series River in My Heart, the final season of criminal drama Brothers, the three formats which are making their debut in Bulgaria that you have mentioned – Starstruck, Anything Goes, and The Chase, as well as hit reality show Desafio: Bulgaria. Of course, news and current affairs continue to be among our strategic priorities, along with major sports events. We are going to broadcast jointly with the Bulgarian National Television the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in the end of the year. 

What are NBG's expectations and forecasts for the ad market and media inflation in 2022? Inflation is now a fact in all fields of business and life. The war in Ukraine has also brought some uncertainty to the market. According to data published by the Bulgarian Association of Communication Agencies (BACA), 2022 will see growth rate slow down by some eight or nine percentage points and the inflation will go above the 10% threshold. We expect growth rates to remain in the range of 7-8% in 2023, accompanied by even higher inflation. Our company continues to invest in high-quality content on all platforms, offering advertisers 360-degree opportunities. We have also kept the levels of our investments in sports content. 

NBG is the largest multiplatform and technology company in Bulgaria. What are the main highlights of your digital strategy? Will you implement any adjustments to your strategy in light of the major international streaming services launched in 2022? NBG’s digital strategy reaches far above the usual digital TV extension approach. However, the most important Net Info USP is its advanced ad tech setup, which is entirely programmatic and 1st party data driven. This advantage is combined with two other unique elements – TV produced premium content and 85% reach, according to Gemius Bulgaria. We are already operating live streams, particularly in sports. These video streams are very well monetized through our portfolio strategy, which is focused on 1st party data development, expansion into new intent categories, and our traditional full focus on advertising KPIs, such as viewability, brand safety, data integrity, etc. 

Before becoming NBG’s CEO, you were the CEO of Netinfo, the leading digital company in Bulgaria and part of Nova. Do you have plans of any further synergies between NBG's TV and digital businesses and operations and in what way? We are pushing the integration between both companies to entirely new levels. We are already successfully monetizing our TV content through Net Info, having achieved efficient integration through the past couple of years. Our ambition now is to integrate Net Info’s knowhow and technologies into NBG’s OTT products. It’s a two-sided game – NBG has content assets and capabilities, while Net Info brings in advertising and data advantages. With this approach, we are ready to embrace all challenges of the dynamic times that we all live in.

How about your cable channels portfolio? Will viewers witness the launch of any new niche nets by NBG this year? Currently, Nova Broadcasting Group’s portfolio of cable channels is well developed and balanced. We are focused on their technological update. We are monitoring the market and we are in constant contact with our distribution partners to make sure we take advantage of any opportunity to launch new channels. 

Are you planning on any synergies with other companies and broadcasters owned by United Group? We are actively working in this direction. United Media, the media arm of United Group and the leading multi-play telecoms and media provider in south-east Europe, is the production leader at regional level, enjoying considerable penetration on a global level through more than 40.000 hours of original content delivered to more than 50 television channels each year reaching out to a market of more than 40 million people. So, of course we are exchanging ideas and discussing opportunities for international co-productions. As one of the strongest production companies in the area, creative excellence, high production standards and ongoing investment in top quality television content are nurtured in all our markets. 
This year, United Media has been selected by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to be part of the selection process of the International Emmy® Awards. This is a long procedure with judging panels meeting in various locations around the world. For the first time in the region, on September 14 in Dubrovnik, United Media will host the semi-final judging round for one category of the universally acclaimed awards. We consider that company’s participation in the process of selecting nominees for the 'International Emmy® Awards' comes as a recognition of our expertise in the field and confirms once more our leading position in the Southeast Europe media market.