The World: Insider's View - Romania

What's the outlook for the most dynamic and competitive media scene in Eastern and Central Europe? Rares Anita reports.

Seventeen years ago, all Romanians ever watched was two hours of black-and-white TV praising their dictator. Now their country has one of the most dynamic, complex and competitive media scenes in the region. The past three years have seen major growth, increasing advertising budgets and diversification.

Since 1989, the media scene has concentrated its major players under three main press conglomerates, all of them either attempting to consolidate well-established international brands such as Ringier, CME (Media Pro) and SBS, or to grow local brands such as Intact.

With the National Audiovisual Council granting free broadcasting licences, there are about 35 active TV stations broadcasting in the Romanian language. This year, around ten launches are expected. It's the same story for radio, with a gargantuan 646 licences, only two of them for national coverage.

The TV market is divided between a number of powerful broadcasters - Pro TV, Media Pro, CME, Antena 1 and TVR,the national TV station, which set the trends and standards on the market.

Attempts to penetrate this arrangement (either foreign or local) have failed. This has led to a lot of specialised channels, covering almost every niche. A fanatic consumer of Latin-American soaps just a few years ago, Romanians have grown attached to local production, from news and sport to talk.

TV adspend in 2007 will be around 45 per cent higher than in 2006 and is expected to grow 367 per cent by 2010. Given those forecasts, it's certain Romania will be a TV-driven media market for at least the next five years.

Outdoor has also evolved dramatically, although the most popular form of outdoor advertising is still the billboard, which is about as innovative as it gets.

Tobacco - the biggest outdoor spender - was banned from the streets as of 1 January, but its place will probably be taken over by telecoms brands.

As for the near future, all the press segments continue to consolidate under big media trust umbrellas. Press will lose ground to TV, while internet and outdoor will grow due to economic development. The seeds of new media have been sown, but it's going to take a while until internet protocol TV, mobile content and viral reveal their true meanings to us.

Rares Anita is the research manager of the Romanian TV network Antena 1.