Confused audience of the Czech CNN

It is more than one month since the start of the Czech version of CNN. The local franchise broadcasts under the license awarded to local media house TV Prima. It is the ninth channel of this group – and the first numbers of viewership show that it struggles to get a relevant audience and position on the market.

Czech CNN targets for 1.5% market share among viewers from 15 to 54 years. Current numbers are too far from this goal: the average market share is slightly below 0.4%. Some shows even have zero audiences. The overall performance of prime-time discussions and current affairs programs is below expectations.

The historic flight of Crew Dragon was a good occasion to compare the Czech CNN with its direct competitor, the public service news channel CT24. Both stations offered live broadcasting of the start and interviews with experts. Czech CNN even prepared a virtual 3D model of the spaceship in the studio. But viewers decided to watch CT24. About 165.000 viewers preferred the public service news channel (5.05 % market share). On the other hand, Czech CNN had only 35.000 viewers and its market share was 1.02%.

Management of TV Prima rejects any concerns about the viability of this project. “It’s too early to judge such a complex multimedia project after just one month of existence,” says Marek Singer, CEO of TV Prima. The media group also notes that not all viewers tuned in Czech CNN already. The news channel is available in terrestrial digital broadcasting, via satellite and cable TV, and through IPTV providers. Most receivers should tune the new station automatically, however many viewers must do it on their own.

Surveys suggest that Czech viewers consume TV news during the day much more than other European nations. The public service news channel CT24 started broadcasting 15 years ago and it is now the most-watched all-news station in Europe compared by average market share. In the third week of May, it had an average share of 4.7% – almost five times more than typical world news channels.

Apart from CT24 and CNN Prima News, Czechs may watch several news bulletins of Nova TV, the most-watched commercial station. The main evening news bulletin of Nova TV, called simply “The TV News” (Televizní noviny), attracts about 1.5 million people each day. 

The Czech CNN says it looks for “zappers,” people who are not loyal to any station during the day and switch between various channels until anything catches their attention. It combines local and international news coverage with well-known shows produced by CNN International, like Amanpour or Quest Means Business. Such programs have the Czech dubbing. Critics point out that the typical American or British narrative of current affairs programs is not attractive for Czechs and those who like Christian Amanpour or Richard Quest do not need to wait for the translated version.

This may be the biggest challenge for the Czech CNN: it is still unclear who should be its typical viewer. The current schedule offers a mix of formats ranging from celebrity life to academic discussions about sustainable fashion. Before launching the Czech CNN franchise, Prima TV gained some popularity among alt-right viewers and conspirators. In recent months, however, the news reporting had to start following the guidelines of CNN and meet its editorial standards. This led to big personal changes. Longtime viewers of Prima TV now are very confused and disappointed, often raising their voices on social media against the new concept. The viewership of evening news bulletin broadcasted simultaneously on CNN Prima News and the main Prima TV channel is declining slowly, harming the prime-time numbers of Prima TV.

So far it looks like the audience do not want to “be there” as the station claim states. There is still big news ahead as the country prepares for regional elections in fall. Czechs always closely watch election coverage – and it may suggest if the project of Czech CNN will be successful or just a money-burning toy with a famous brand.