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Czech Republic

Czech Republic

Population: 10.6 million
Internet penetration: 88%

The Czech media market has had to grapple with the negative impact of the pandemic over the course of the last year, with the newspaper sector hardest hit. There were significant moves in the TV market in 2020, notably the change of ownership of the largest commercial TV station Nova, and the launch of CNN Prima News.

The pandemic brought significant challenges to the Czech media market in 2020, particularly in the spring, when advertising expenditures fell dramatically (-21% in May). Overall, the advertising market recorded a small annual rise (3%), driven, however, mostly by the online sector (+13%) and TV (+8%), benefiting from increased consumption during the lockdown, while radio and newspaper advertising revenues experienced substantial declines (-8% and -13%, respectively).1

Newspaper sales dropped by 16% on average, more than double the previous year’s decline, with the leading tabloid Blesk suffering the biggest hit (-20%). The entire print sector reported total revenue losses of 2 billion CZK (€80m), which was not softened by any state support, as the plans for launching a blanket state-sponsored ad campaign or for reducing VAT for publishers did not materialise. 2 Many publishers were thus forced to reduce expenditure, leading to salary cuts, layoffs of personnel, reducing the frequency of publication of some titles, or halting their publication completely. The impact of the pandemic added to the long-term financial problems of one of the legacy publishers, Mladá Fronta, which was declared bankrupt at the end of 2020 and sold by auction to an online publisher, Internet Info.

Despite the overall grim situation in the print market, there were some promising trends. A new economic weekly Hrot was launched in May (the first new such title for many years), and publisher A11 expanded its portfolio of regional and metropolitan street papers titled Our Region. Several titles and publishers reported a marked increase in digital subscriptions, including the youngest Czech daily – Deník N (launched in 2018), that had reached 20,000 subscribers by the beginning of 2021, making a major step towards financial sustainability. Publishers have been further increasing the amount of paid online content, encouraged by the steadily growing willingness of readers to pay for it, as confirmed by this year’s Digital News Report survey. Some brands have opted for a combination of paywalls with crowdfunding, which in the case of the online video channel DVTV (featuring mainly one-on-one interviews on current affairs) turned into the most successful Czech crowdfunded project ever, raising CZK 9.73m (€375,000) from over 9,000 people.3

In the TV market, the biggest development was arguably the May 2020 launch of the 24/7 news channel CNN Prima News. Owned by Prima Group, the second-biggest commercial TV network in the country, the new channel added to the list of international TV stations operating under licence from CNN. Prima’s main commercial rival, Nova Group, changed hands in October 2020, following the European Commission’s approval of a deal in which Nova’s parent company, Central European Media Enterprises (owned by AT&T), was sold to the Czech investment group PPF. Now it has added the largest Central European television company to its substantial telecommunication portfolio, PPF is one of the most powerful multimedia conglomerates in the region. While the company has emphasised the business rationale for the takeover, and the opportunities for synergies between telecommunication and media, concerns have been raised about the potential consequences of such concentration of power, especially in light of PPF’s long-term history of veiled but often significant involvement in Czech politics.4

Both public service broadcasters have increased their average daily audience share, claimed the number 1 place in TV and radio in 2020, and perform well in our list of offline brands by weekly reach. Online, however, their performance remains far below their success in broadcast. High viewing figures, boosted for Czech Television by the introduction of a new channel ČT3 (aimed at elderly audiences) and of children’s educational programme UčíTelka (TV Teacher) during the lockdown, have again been complemented by high levels of trust, as seen in the DNR’s brand trust scores. At the same time, the ongoing battles for the independence of the Czech Television have further intensified, with a series of politically partisan appointments to the regulator, the Czech Television Council. These changed the balance of power in favour of those that have been accused of seeking to muzzle critical journalism and impose tighter political control over the Czech public service broadcaster.

Václav Štětka
Loughborough University, UK

Changing media

The gap between online media and television as sources of news has continued to widen, while access via print has halved since 2015. With COVID-19 restrictions on movement, the smartphone has increased its importance as a device for accessing news.

Pay for online news

13%

Share news via social, messaging or email

31%

Trust

Trust in news overall

36%

(+3) =33/46

Trust in news I use

40%

Trust in news in search

30%

Trust in news on social media

17%

After several years of decline, overall trust in news has recorded a slight growth, possibly reflecting the preference for more reliable sources during the pandemic. There have been no significant changes in the brand trust scores, with the public service broadcasters maintaining their position at the top of the list.

Footnotes

1 https://www.mediaguru.cz/clanky/2021/03/prehled-ceskeho-medialniho-trhu-v-roce-2020/

2 https://www.mediaguru.cz/clanky/2021/02/tisk-odhaduje-propad-trzeb-v-roce-2020-na-dve-miliardy/

3 https://www.lupa.cz/aktuality/online-televize-dvtv-pokorila-rekord-v-crowdfundingu-vybrala-9-7-milionu-kc/

4 https://visegradinsight.eu/czech-business-empire-with-an-unsavoury-political-tinge/