While the Ukrainian audiovisual industry, like the entire country, is focused on combating Russian aggression and surviving in the conditions of a full-scale war, significant changes are taking place on the global map of industrial events, affecting the CEE region as well. In June of this year, Budapest will host two TV content markets with a one-week difference: the well-known NATPE Budapest, which has undergone organizational changes after a period of turbulence, and the new event, Content Budapest presented by the renowned brand С21 Media, in collaboration with the Ukrainian company Media Resources Management (MRM).
What caused these changes, what is the fundamental difference between the markets, what does it mean for the industry, and how can it benefit Ukraine? We answer these important questions together with Kateryna Udut, CEO of MRM.
What is NATPE Budapest and what was its significance in the landscape of industrial events? To avoid delving too deeply into history, let's briefly recap: In 2011, the American organization NATPE (The National Association of Television Program Executives), established in 1963 and renowned for its industrial events, acquired the DISCOP East TV content market and rebranded it as NATPE Budapest, maintaining the same host city (Budapest) and a focus on the Central and Eastern European territories.
"It was called different names: NATPE Europe, NATPE International, NATPE Budapest. But everyone knew what it was about: Budapest was traditionally listed among important markets in the summer. At some point, NEM appeared – a cool niche market focused on Eastern Europe, but NATPE Budapest was always larger," says Kateryna Udut. "Being located in Hungary, in close proximity to Eastern European countries, ensured the presence of the majority of broadcasters and producers from Eastern Europe, who did not always attend other Central European events or MIP. The organizers managed to make NATPE Budapest high-quality, and useful for business, and attendance was quite high. It is also important to note that for the last seven or eight years, we have been partners with cross-promotion regarding KYIV MEDIA WEEK: we helped each other with mailings, and promotions, and provided special offers for participation in both events. A separate thanks to the director of NATPE Budapest, JP Bommel, who has always been open to cooperation and supported Ukraine, especially during times of full-scale war."
Everything appears to be quite harmonious. What were the factors that led to the emergence of a new event in Budapest?
Due to the challenges caused by the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, NATPE declared bankruptcy in the fall of last year while promising to hold its key markets in the United States and Hungary. However, just a few weeks later, the American market was canceled, leaving everyone uncertain about the fate of these events. To fill the gaps in the calendar (January, when NATPE Miami took place, and June, traditionally reserved for NATPE Budapest), C21 decided to launch two new events: Content Americas and Content Budapest. In January, it was announced that the assets of NATPE were acquired by the Canadian company Brunico Communications, which specializes in industry events and owns several powerful brands in its portfolio, including Realscreen Summit and Banff World Media Festival. Brunico itself announced plans to hold NATPE Budapest in the summer of 2023.
Why C21? Isn't it a media publication?
"Yes, C21 Media is a well-known global brand, but it is much more than just a media. It is a multifaceted professional hub for the international B2B content business community that has long proven its expertise, knowledge, and connections," explains Kateryna. "In 2014, the company launched Content London, which became a huge success due to its fresh approach to organizing events. It is not just a platform for buying and selling content but a market focused on development, co-production, partnerships, and growth. Later, they also introduced Content LA. Therefore, it is not surprising that C21 decided to relaunch the regional markets that were in question, following a similar attitude. In winter, they held Content Americas (replacing NATPE Miami), and the event received excellent reviews."
In addition to their own experience and understanding of the general trends in the global media business, the entire team that previously organized NATPE events, including in Budapest, is now working on Content Budapest. Therefore the event is backed by great people who didn't start from scratch but know exactly what to do.
Now it is clear how two events emerged in Budapest. But why will they be held one week apart?
In fact, in February, when both C21 and Brunico announced the dates for their events, the situation appeared even more complicated: the markets were supposed to take place simultaneously. "It was a surprise for everyone involved, including us," recalls Kateryna. "Although I understand the reasoning behind it. The dates have long been established in the calendar, and people are accustomed to attending the market in Budapest during those days." However, considering a significant religious holiday in Turkey starting on June 28th, NATPE moved its event one week earlier. That's how the one-week difference emerged: NATPE Budapest will be held on June 19-22, while Content Budapest will take place on June 27-29.
Does Turkey belong to the CEE region?
"It's worth returning to the question of what CEE is," clarifies Udut. "Because there are geographical, geopolitical, and industry concepts of it. In the list of Central and Eastern European countries that we defined during negotiations with C21 regarding the market vision and its needs, we actually included up to 20 territories, Turkey and Georgia are among them. Geographically, they are not in Europe, but these markets are close to Eastern Europe and are full-fledged players in terms of business and influence on the region. The Turkish market may seem separate, but it certainly has a tremendous impact on the CEE, and Turkish drama is making waves worldwide. And naturally, there is widespread interest in comprehending this remarkable phenomenon and its core principles, with numerous individuals eager to engage in collaborations with financially robust Turkish enterprises driven by ambitious visions. Turkey stands out as an active participant in a multitude of events, extending beyond the regional scope, and consistently conducts itself akin to a prominent European player, leaving no room for ambiguity."
How did the Ukrainian company MRM become a partner of C21 in organizing Content Budapest?
"Our partnership as co-organizers came about naturally," analyzes the CEO of MRM. "We are already deeply embedded in this market, with 12 years of experience organizing KYIV MEDIA WEEK, as well as strong partnerships with various companies, publications, and festivals in the region. This means that we know exactly what needs to be done, and we bring valuable contacts and expertise to the table for the organizers of Content Budapest. Furthermore, MRM and C21 Media have a longstanding history of collaboration, ranging from C21 Media regularly supporting and attending our KYIV MEDIA WEEK to working together on special projects for the global media community. Notably, this includes conducting interviews with Volodymyr Zelensky and key figures in the Ukrainian industry as part of the Ukraine Content on Demand project hosted by C21 Media. Since the beginning of the full-scale war, the company has been supporting Ukraine's industry initiatives, often doing so through MRM.
Given the intense competition between the two events (especially in the beginning when the market was informed about two Budapest events without any clarification, but instead was bombarded with both email campaigns), the support of MRM was certainly invaluable. We have quite strong connections in Eastern Europe, and Ukraine as a whole is an active participant in the CEE market. Our industry players have long been exploring scenarios for potential collaboration, and there are already numerous successful cases. Despite the current challenging economic situation resulting from the war, we have gained attention and recognition in the market, and our voice is being heard."
Will there be any Ukrainian events or panels included in the conference program of Content Budapest?
"There won't be a dedicated Ukrainian panel. However, speakers from our companies will be represented in a series of panels on general topics. For example, Victoria Yarmoshchuk, CEO of FILM.UA Group, will participate in a discussion on changing the business landscape in the region, and Volodymyr Zavadiuk, Head of Big Shows at broadcast group 1+1 media, will be part of a panel dedicated to formats. Negotiations are still underway with other potential speakers from Ukraine. Additionally, Ukraine will be presented at the market under Ukrainian Content. Global Cooperation initiative umbrella (Starlight Media, 1+1 media, Film.UA Group, Suspilne Ukraine), and what’s also great there will be around 50 more delegates, representing the rest of the market – broadcasters, distributors, producers, and platforms."
With MRM's involvement in organizing a significant industry event, a natural question arises: will KYIV MEDIA WEEK take place this year?
"Currently, the position concerning KYIV MEDIA WEEK has not been finalized," the CEO of MRM acknowledges. "If Content Budapest proceeds as planned, with its intended scale and format, it would sufficiently cater to Ukraine as a full-fledged participant in the Eastern European market event, which has a regional focus on our territories. This, along with the presence at Cannes and other markets that we have been attending and will continue to attend, offers Ukraine ample opportunities. The partnership between MRM and C21 enables Ukraine to be an active participant in Content Budapest and leverage all its advantages. From a global perspective, setting aside the impact of the ongoing war, we still value KYIV MEDIA WEEK as a platform for discussing internal matters and as a meeting point for Ukrainian industry players. However, the format of this year's KYIV MEDIA WEEK is currently uncertain, and we will adapt based on circumstances and market demands. We may follow a similar travel format as last year, featuring a few guest sessions worldwide. We also consider organizing a small offline event in Ukraine. Due to the prevailing war, our planning horizon is significantly limited, and a more definitive outlook on KYIV MEDIA WEEK is expected to emerge in July."
MRM is also working on the CEE100 initiative, which will be launched at Content Budapest. What is it?
"Top 100 representatives of Central and Eastern Europe is an interesting project that is not directly related to Content Budapest, but it will serve as an additional tool for promoting and developing the Eastern European region," says Kateryna. "Essentially, it is a power list of a hundred individuals who, according to C21 and our own assessment, have an impact on the industry climate in the CEE region and are important players on the market. We have selected a sample from a large number of top management from companies across the region, including television channels, production companies, film studios, media holdings, and platforms – various individuals from different companies whose activities are significant for their country and the region as a whole. At this stage, we have confirmed members of the CEE100 initiative from Poland, Hungary, Greece, Czech Republic, Turkey, Romania, Croatia, Latvia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and several pan-regional companies, including representatives from Warner Brothers, Discovery, and A&E Networks, who are responsible for their operations in our region. The project's essence is not about physically bringing these people to Budapest; the goal is to focus attention on their activities and share information about them as drivers of the content business, their needs, and plans both within and beyond our region. This will help create a more comprehensive picture of the specific features and potential of the CEE region and its players.
The list will be more or less finalized by the start of Content Budapest (though not necessarily reaching the full hundred, as the process is complex, involving top executives of companies). Throughout the summer and autumn, interviews will be conducted with all the individuals, culminating in the release of a special edition – the eponymous digital magazine by C21 – at the end of the year. Essentially, it is a branded story aimed at promoting and providing informational support to the region and companies that are open to collaborating with each other and the world.
It appears that the appearance of two events in Budapest has caused a split in the market. But what is actually happening?
"In February, when both events were announced, it appeared to some that there was a market division taking place. Certain individuals couldn't comprehend the necessity of Content Budapest when they had traditionally attended NATPE. However, for those acquainted with the esteemed C21 brand of events, such queries never arose," Kateryna reflects. "Here, one should consider the needs of a specific business unit, a specific participant of one event or another. A true buyer or exhibitor would look at the list of sellers or buyers. But if you're going to broaden your horizons and approach your business or partnerships from a new perspective, then it should be an event of a new format."
So what is the fundamental difference between the two events in Budapest?
The organizers of Content Budapest are certain that the future of the industry lies in collaborative development rather than just acquiring ready-made shows. Therefore, this event focuses on fostering joint production in Central and Eastern Europe and expanding the potential of this region as a whole. "If we're talking about a purely market-oriented event where buying and selling take place, NATPE is more understandable for people," Kateryna adds. "They have been there multiple times, know the location, and so on. The C21 event requires a broader approach, involving not only the sales team but also active participation from producers and those responsible for development and co-production. The main highlight of Content Budapest, which I greatly respect, is building a genuine dialogue with local players and a willingness to understand what this region truly needs.
The CEE market is quite complex as it consists of a large number of mostly smaller markets with different backgrounds, opportunities, and so on. Due to this specificity, a more comprehensive approach is needed for the development of the industry in the region and future collaborations. This is precisely what Content Budapest aims to do. From my experience working with different territories in the region, it seems that many are comfortable staying in what I call a ‘domestic lifestyle and business model’: everyone is satisfied with the current state of things, the level of their market development, and their audience tastes. Therefore, it is currently quite challenging to engage some of them in a dialogue. At the same time, we are at a turning point where other big markets, including Western Europe itself, are expanding their horizons, seeking new partnerships, and exploring fresh ideas and creativity. In my opinion, we cannot ignore this trend."
How are these intentions and goals implemented in the Content Budapest program?
95% of the program has already been finalized, and you can see that the organizers have successfully encompassed nearly all significant thematic areas. Content Budapest participants can expect discussions on commercial and public broadcasters' content strategies, opportunities for co-production within the region and beyond, new ways and business models to increase revenues despite market challenges, the latest trends in Pay TV (including both local and global streamers), format industry trends, FAST TV as a new source of income, joint development and production of series, as well as regional analytics focusing on key factors of change in the upcoming year, and inspiring speeches from global company leaders, and more.
"Another important event is The C21 Content Budapest Series Pitch, which has recently closed its call for entries," adds Kateryna. "It welcomed project submissions across all genres, with Ukrainian companies also invited to participate. The pitch offers a valuable opportunity to showcase projects to potential partners in Eastern Europe. With a distinguished panel of experts and attractive prizes, including $20,000 worth of marketing support from C21 and fully-funded participation in Content London later this year, it provides significant support for new projects and their producers."
How can the situation with the two markets in Budapest impact the media business in the region in the future?
Kateryna is confident that the situation will normalize next year. By conducting their respective events and receiving feedback, the organizers of NATPE and Content Budapest will reach a mutual agreement. However, it is the industry itself that ultimately benefits from this competition. But at this moment, I am inclined towards C21's approach in shaping the program and the overall organization. I believe it is necessary for the region and, of course, Ukraine. Yes, it's challenging and requires much more effort, but as long as the world remains open, let's actively showcase our wonderful ideas beyond Ukraine's borders and establish our own niche in the CEE market. Many territories still exhibit a certain level of conservatism, but since 2014, circumstances have compelled us to explore new avenues. As a result, we have become more proactive and promising, and have identified numerous opportunities. We have already developed strategies to foster our growth and assist others in doing the same."