INTERNATIONAL: MEDIUM OF THE MONTH - Simon Evans on a chat show that changed the face of Hungarian TV

For decades, Hungarian State Television (MTV) has produced talk shows. Formerly, a presenter would sit around a table in a dull studio with professors, Party officials and loyal journalists, discussing the uncontroversial topic of the day while viewers took a nap. Then, in 1992, came the Friderikusz Show, a glitzy Western-style chat show, hosted by the colourful Sandor Friderikusz. And the viewers began to wake up.

For decades, Hungarian State Television (MTV) has produced talk

shows. Formerly, a presenter would sit around a table in a dull studio

with professors, Party officials and loyal journalists, discussing the

uncontroversial topic of the day while viewers took a nap. Then, in

1992, came the Friderikusz Show, a glitzy Western-style chat show,

hosted by the colourful Sandor Friderikusz. And the viewers began to

wake up.



Now, with four to five million viewers, Friderikusz nets roughly half

the population each time the monthly show goes out, and the programme is

second in the ratings only to the US-produced Dallas. Such is its

success that Friderikusz sells the most expensive airtime in Hungary and

is the only show on MTV to have a central break.



’The viewing figures are so ridiculously high that they attract the lazy

advertisers, and the cautious ones who can’t afford a risk,’ explains

Bela Nemeth, the head of broadcasting at Budapest-based Initiative

Media. ’When you can guarantee that half the population is going to be

watching, you just can’t go wrong.’



It is not only Friderikusz’s irreverent style and wit that pull in the

viewers. His guest list over the past two years is also unmatched in

central Europe - Sylvester Stallone, Claudia Schiffer, OJ Simpson

post-trial, Antonio Banderas and, of course, virtually every actor from

Dallas.



Fired by the success of the show, Friderikusz also launched two new

programmes last year. Unexpected Guest is a kind of Hungarian version of

This is Your Life; and Talking in Another Way, where the host interviews

public figures and politicians in a light-hearted manner. Although well

received by viewers, neither of the new shows has matched the original

in the ratings.



Friderikusz runs on MTV on a renewable one-year contract, and the annual

negotiations have been stormy affairs with both Friderikusz and the

various presidents of MTV threatening to pull the show off the air.



However, in September, one of Hungary’s two state channels will be

privatised and a franchise given for another national private channel.

Insiders say Friderikusz has already received offers from some of the

bidders and is keen to sign up to one of the new channels. But with so

much influence over the viewing figures, he is waiting to see what

develops before making his move.



FACT BOX

Friderikusz Show

Hosted by Sandor Friderikusz

Produced by Friderikusz Productions

Broadcast on the third Thursday of every month.

Average viewing figures 4.5m (Dallas has average viewing figures of

5.25m)

Penetration 45-55 per cent



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