Discovery Communications’ acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive could have far-reaching implications for the TV industry in Poland.
Should a deal be reached – talks between the two parties are still ongoing – it would create a truly powerful player in the Polish market, where Scripps already owns TVN, and arguably change its entire dynamics.
Earlier this week, the Polish press interviewed a number of industry players to get their views on the possible effects of such a transaction. Marek Sowa, a media expert and former head of UPC Polska and Agora, said that it would have implications for broadcasters such as Polsat and TVP, as well as strengthen the negotiating position of Discovery/Scripps with content providers. It would also make the entire market more resilient to political pressures.
Witold Grabos, a former vice chairman of the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), meanwhile argued that the Polish market would find itself in trouble, given the strength of Discovery in such areas as rights to the Olympics.
On the other hand, Dariusz Dabski, the president of TV Puls, said that the future of the TV market in Poland would ultimately be determined by new legislation currently being prepared by the government.
Another perspective was provided by Piotr Bienko, the head of the sales house Codemedia, who pointed out that the two companies already cooperate in Poland, with TVN selling airtime for Discovery channels.
In my view, these are all relevant arguments. What should really be borne in mind is that Poland currently finds itself in a difficult situation politically and is in many respects a divided nation. The TV industry reflects those divisions, with TVP toeing a pro-government line and TVP and Polsat voicing their opposition to it.
Earlier this year, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, spoke about the need to introduce regulatory controls in the media. These would in all likelihood include a limit on the level of foreign ownership of commercial broadcasters such as TVN.
However, this ‘repolonisation of the Polish media’, as it has been described, would arguably not prevent Discovery/Scripps from being a hugely important player.