The Czech media landscape is characterised by the dominance of commercial television, which attracts nearly half of the total advertising spend, and by a highly concentrated newspaper sector, mostly in the hands of local business tycoons.
The continued growth of the Czech advertising market has significantly gathered pace in the last year, climbing by 15% in 2016. This was mainly due to rising spend on TV (+19%). However online ad spending has grown the fastest (+31%), surpassing print for the first time and increasing its overall share of the advertising market to 21%.1
The decline in circulation of Czech daily newspapers, witnessed since the 2009 economic crisis, slowed down last year to an average 3.5%,2 a trend observed across both quality papers and the tabloid press. One of the quality papers, Lidové noviny, even managed to slightly increase its circulation. Conversely, the local version of Newsweek, licensed by its US publisher IBT Media, closed down its operation in December, only a year after its launch.
In 2016, two ambitious online news projects were started by some of the key media players on the market. The leading web portal and second-biggest search engine Seznam.cz launched a news site Seznam Zpravy in October, a combination of daily video and text-based news, as well as video commentaries. Having assembled several popular and experienced journalists from other newsrooms, Seznam Zpravy has quickly established itself as the top online news media brand in the country. Towards the end of the year, the media house Czech News Centre (formerly Ringier Axel Springer) launched Info.cz, a news server with the motto ‘The Power of Facts’, indicating its aim to emphasise quality and selectiveness over sheer quantity of information offered to the users.3
Apart from the online news business, Seznam.cz has also expanded into the realm of digital television, by launching Seznam.cz TV, available on smart televisions via the HbbTV platform. The hybrid broadcasting format, first launched by the public service broadcaster Ceska televize, is currently being explored by an increasing number of players, including both of the main commercial channels, TV Nova and TV Prima, both of which introduced the ‘Red Button’ in 2016. Additionally, the music station TV Ocko became the first to utilise programmatic advertising via this platform.
The process of convergence of technological companies and content providers has continued in the IPTV market. The hegemony of the leading Czech telecommunication company O2 was broken when T-mobile launched its IPTV service, branded T-mobile TV. O2 has in the meantime significantly expanded its offer by establishing several new thematic sports channels, aimed to compete with TV Nova’s sports stations, as well as with the localised versions of the transnational Eurosport franchise.
Czech online users’ news habits have not changed dramatically in the past year, although the computer is gradually becoming less dominant among the devices used to access news. Tablet use for news consumption remains low and stagnating, a tendency which most likely contributed to the closure of the first Czech tablet weekly Dotyk in 2016.
Willingness to pay for online news continues to be among the lowest in Europe. This is certainly both the cause and the consequence of the fact that the majority of Czech online news content remains free. Most content producers are wary of discouraging users with hard paywalls, and instead experiment with freemium models. This is true of tabloid Blesk.cz which since 2016 has offered some exclusive paid content, while its sister service iSport.cz (also owned by the Czech News Centre) started charging to view all football matches from the national league, previously available for free. A couple of new projects are exploring the premium, exclusive business news, including the website MotejlekSkocdopole.com, established and run by two economic journalists, or BusinessMonitor24, an affiliate of the online news platform Echo24.cz.
Parlamentni listy, a Czech version of Breitbart News, is infamous for disseminating hoaxes and hate speech. The challenges of fake news and disinformation campaigns on social media were heavily discussed in 2016, prompting a response from the government. In December they set up a special unit at the Ministry of Interior, aimed at combating fake news and state-sponsored disinformation.
Smartphone use for news (40%) has grown more slowly than in many other European countries while the computer still dominates (72%). Social media news use (52%) is at the same level as the EU average.
High levels of distrust in the mainstream media relates to the perception that they act in the interest of political and economic actors rather than in the public interest. This distrust is further stimulated and exploited by quickly growing ‘alternative’ media outlets.