Silvia Majeská; Zdroj: TV Nova
6. 2. 2024

When Nova TV started broadcasting, its current Programming Director, Silvia Majeská, was just nine years old. Slovakia had to wait two more years to launch commercial television and that’s why Silvia remembers better the start of Markíza.

At the time, she had no idea that in a few years, she would write an e-mail from her studies in the USA to the CEO of Markíza who would meet her in person and hire her as an acquisition specialist for the Programming Department. Today, she manages programming at both Markíza and Nova and deals with content for the Voyo streaming service. We talked to Silvia Majeská about the effect that 30 years of Nova TV’s broadcasting have had on her.

On Sunday, TV Nova celebrated 30 years since its launch. Do you remember what you were doing on 4 February 1994 when Nova started? Did you watch it in Slovakia?

As I am not from the Czech Republic but from Slovakia, I don't have the experiences and memories of where I was and what I was doing as strong as my colleagues who were on site. I perceive it at least through the feelings I had when Markíza started in Slovakia. And now, when we pull out materials and footage from the archives from the early days of Nova, I realise that the new way of television broadcasting meant a revolution in the media market. Nova came up with something completely new, becoming a clear innovator in the market, and that has not changed in 30 years. It still wants to set new trends and entertain viewers. It is great that it hasn’t lost that ambition over such a long period of time.

Do you have any personal experience from the launch of Markíza, which started broadcasting two years after Nova and was probably closer to you?

Yes, I do. And I think that the feelings were very similar to those experienced by the audience in the Czech Republic: that something new and unprecedented for that time had arrived. The whole country was adapting its daily habits to what was being broadcast at the time and when popular programmes were aired on Markíza. It is a strong nostalgia because today, viewers have a much wider choice, not only on TV but also on their mobiles or computers. I am all the more proud that Nova is still here and has something to offer.

You were eleven when Markíza started, I think. Were you able to watch it at home, did your parents allow it?

I watched Markíza with respect to my age at that time. I was sort of a TV lover from a young age. I enjoyed watching any kind of content, regardless of the genre. I’m very grateful that I was able to make it in this field.

Was television your dream job from the beginning? Did you choose your studies accordingly?

Yes, it was my dream job, mainly because I came from a generation for whom the advent of commercial television was a unique phenomenon. So, I enjoyed watching the shows, I was fascinated by how things worked on TV but as for my profession, I got into TV more or less by accident. I was studying international business and marketing. Thanks to that I had a stab at television. I realised that I was in my element in TV, it was exactly what I wanted to do.

"It’s great that Ordinace has not only maintained its stable viewer base after moving to Voyo but is also gaining new viewers. It’s great that alongside the linear channels, we also have an SVOD platform that appeals to younger viewers and their preferred way of consuming content," says Silvia Majeská.

 Are you talking about your internship at MTV during your studies in the United States?

Yes, I am. That was where I first got the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in television. I got into a department that dealt with programming and acquisitions, which was an area I knew nothing about. It helped me to look under the hood and understand the basics of how it was done. I was very lucky to have a boss who became my mentor on MTV. I was just a student, but she helped me get insight into TV operation, explained everything to me and influenced me a lot. At that time, I got the feeling that if I make it in this industry, I would be happy because television is something that is really interesting and fascinating for me.

Did you go straight to Markíza after returning to Slovakia? How did you do it?

When I was still a student in America, I wrote an e-mail to the then CEO of Markíza, Václav Mika. To my great surprise he replied and offered me a meeting. So as soon as I returned to Bratislava, I went to see him, and we went through my CV. It was a great fit because they were looking for someone to deal with acquisitions and I was fluent in English and thirsty for international content. We came to an agreement and the CEO gave me the opportunity to join. I will be grateful for that chance forever. Since then, I have been working in the world of Markíza, which also includes Nova.

Its only a step from acquisitions to the programming management. I have read that you were in charge of the multichannel strategy and the preparation of the first thematic channel TV Doma at Makríza quite early. You were only 24 years old at the time.

There was also an awful lot of talk about how it was possible that I was going to be in charge of a new station when I was so young. I have to say that these discussions went on in the following years of my career and I was constantly reproached for being too young. I have to admit it was pretty unprecedented, but I’m a person who tries to overcome obstacles. I got into an environment where opportunities like this came up. To this day, I’m still grateful that I was surrounded by people who weren’t afraid of my age and gave me a chance. In hindsight, I definitely missed the experience that I gained later in practice. I think they appreciated my drive and gave me that chance.

Where did you look for inspiration when preparing the new TV channel TV Doma?

The decision on what channel to run was not up to me. I had very clear instructions from the management because TV Doma was based on a specific model, which was the Acasa station from Romania. Acasa means “at home” in Romanian. There were many seasoned colleagues with many years of experience at Markíza, so I was not alone.

Was there any programming cooperation with Nova back then? The multi-channel strategy was applied in Prague as well. Did you go to Nova for any internships or meetings?

At that time, I didn’t have any contact with Nova, even though we worked within the same media group. We knew each other, we were aware of each other, but I worked primarily with Romanian colleagues on the preparation of TV Doma. It was because their TV Acasa was a clear model for our channel and at that time, we were quite ambitious about TV Doma, including its local content and local soap operas. That’s why I went more often to Bucharest and participated in the filming of their content.

For some time, TV Doma provided free broadcasting just like Markíza, and viewers could tune in for free. Later, however, Markíza reconsidered its distribution strategy and switched all its channels to pay services. It is basically encrypted even in the terrestrial broadcasting. Were you afraid of this move, were there any fears at Markíza that you would lose viewers?

It was certainly not an easy decision because there were many risks. The management of Markíza approached it like any person who is faced with a difficult decision and weighs the advantages and disadvantages of the move. And the advantages prevailed. They simply believed that Markíza as a love brand brings people shows that are popular and watched, so it can handle the handicap of not being available for free. And in the end, that turned out to be true. Moreover, the situation in Slovakia is different from the Czech Republic, with terrestrial TV penetration of less than 10% of households. I think this also played a role in the decision to encrypt Markíza. It seems logical to me.

How did the market share of Markíza and its viewership develop? At one point, the competing Joj television took over the role of market leader. Has Markíza returned to the top of the TV rankings?

Markíza is the most watched television in Slovakia, for which we are grateful to our viewers. Yes, there was a short period of time when the market was reset, and viewers were getting used to the new situation. But it settled down relatively quickly and the market returned to the same figures. Markíza is still the market leader as a station and as a group and has even managed to increase its viewing figures compared to last year.

TV Doma was not Markíza’s only thematic channel. How did you choose what each station would focus on?

We built our multi-channel strategy in a similar way to how streaming services work now where every viewer can find something for their liking. The habits to watch content through different channels have become more individual and we had to reflect that at Markíza. The thematic stations are meant to be complementary to the main channels. If there is a mass audience programme on the main channel that I don’t feel like watching, I can find an alternative such as a film on a thematic station. One station will offer a crime drama, the other a comedy. A television group’s portfolio should cover all these audience needs.

You said that at a certain time Markíza and Nova did not cooperate much, there was a lack of programming synergies. When did that fundamentally change and when did the cooperation started?

The lack of cooperation I talked about primarily related to small thematic stations because the large channels, Nova and Markíza, used the synergies of large Czech-Slovak projects. We all remember SuperStar, Your Face Sounds Familiar, Talentmania and other projects. Whenever it was possible, especially in entertainment, we logically sought out these synergies because they had many benefits. But in terms of feature filmmaking, those two markets operated rather separately. Some closer collaboration resulted from the restart of Voyo, which kicked off a whole new dimension of synergies. Voyo Originál titles are Czech-Slovak. In addition, a year ago we started broadcasting Czech crime series on Markíza and some Slovak series on Nova’s thematic stations. We are gradually trying to find the moments when the synergy is logical.

But it cannot be said that Czech and Slovak viewers have the same preferences. Not everything that works in Slovakia can be transferred to Czech television and vice versa.

I agree, they are two different nations, and each of them has its own specifics. We operate as a system of local TV groups and our priority is to reflect and understand the needs of local viewers. We just need to be closer to them than the huge multinational content they can access through streaming services. You are right, Czech and Slovak viewers are different but the general rules, such as that they want to be entertained, apply to both of them. And that is why we offer them shows that work globally. They are adapted a little to local conditions, but the basis is the same everywhere.

Can you give an example of the original format of Markíza that you think would not work on Nova and vice versa? I remember that both TV stations put on a Turkish soap opera. It was a total flop on Nova while on Markíza, it was a hit.

In Slovakia, it was a phenomenon. It took us by surprise, we didn’t expect such a success, although it is true that the Slovak TV market is historically built on soap operas but primarily the Latin American ones such as Manuela, Esmeralda and so on. It is true that the Turkish soap opera 1001 Nights was less successful in the Czech Republic. I think it’s because Slovaks are looking for strong emotions while Czech viewers need some logic and depth in the story.

“Czech and Slovak viewers are different but the general rules, such as that they want to be entertained, apply to both of them. And that is why we offer them shows that work globally. They are adapted a little to local conditions, but the basis is the same everywhere,” says Silvia Majeská, the head of Programming Department of Slovak Markíza in addition to Nova’s programming.

 Staying with the original question, do you think Modré z neba would work on Nova?

I think the key would be how the format would be approached. If people appreciate that those in need are being helped, it could work. The question is how it would be addressed, what types of stories Nova would offer and how they would be told. Each format has a lot of different parameters that can be tailored to make it a more acceptable and consumable show for a given market.

It is true that when I compared the Czech and Slovak versions of Farmer Wants a Wife years ago, there was a significant difference between them.

Exactly, and if we stay with this particular format, it had several different forms in Slovakia. It can be modified quite a lot through script editing. It depends on what kind of people you choose in casting, what kind of storytelling dynamics you choose, what kind of editing, what kind of music you choose. It can be tailored to different TV and age groups. The success of the whole project depends on how well you hit the taste of your target audience.

When did the closer personnel synergies between Markíza and Nova occur? And how did you as the Programming Director of Markíza actually get to Nova?

At the beginning, I was in charge of acquisitions for Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Foreign acquisitions are very similar for both groups, and it is natural that everyone always wants the best content. CME’s management had the idea that it would be logical to do acquisitions together. So, I covered acquisitions for both markets. And then it kind of followed from that. But it is not a question for me why I got the opportunity to lead the programming at Nova as well. I still feel very humbled because the Czech market is bigger, but there are extremely experienced and hard-working people at Nova, so it’s an honour to have been given the opportunity.

What was your ‘courtship’ with Nova like in practice? Did you start going to Prague more often to get some experience with Nova’s programming?

It was in the period of the coronavirus pandemic, so we were all working from home via video conferencing. But as soon as it was possible, we moved with the whole family to Prague, which was also not easy because we have three small children. We are living in Prague and fortunately there are new technologies that allow us to work remotely and stay connected. I have an amazing team of people in Slovakia at Markíza. We have known each other for many years, so the remote collaboration can work well.

And how does the division of the functions of Markíza’s and Nova’s Programming Director work in practice? Do you have separate times or days when you work for Markíza and when you work for Nova? Isn’t that a bit schizophrenic?

I was already used to a certain multi-channel strategy, so I just added another group of stations. You cannot define it in time because television is a very dynamic business. We are on 24 hours a day and there is always something going on. Every time there is an impulse that you don’t anticipate, and you have to deal with it immediately.

You are not the only manager at Nova who also holds the same position at Markíza. For example, Josef Uher, the Chief Technical Officer, has a similar role. All programmes for both Nova and Markíza are delivered jointly from Prague. It is interesting how far the synergy between the two TV groups has reached. When did you decide to let the two TV stations grow into each other like this?

This doesn’t only apply to Nova and Markíza. Many companies operating on the Czech and Slovak markets work this way. It is due to the minimal language barrier.

After all, Voyo has also resulted from such synergy and managed to kick-start a huge growth in recent years. In the beginning, it was helped by the move of Ordinace v růžové zahradě from linear broadcasting exclusively to Voyo. At the same time, however, this caused a problem for Nova’s main channel. Competitors took the Tuesday and Thursday slots, which until then had been unshakably dominated by Ordinace v růžové zahradě. And although Nova is now trying to take back” these slots it will be difficult, as Michal Reitler, Head of Content Development at Voyo and TV Nova, said in the Aust podcast on the Médiář website. In retrospect, do you think that moving Ordinace v růžové zahradě from Nova to Voyo was the right thing to do?

From my point of view, it was. It is great that it has not only maintained its stable audience base but is also gaining new viewers. It’s great that alongside the linear channels, we have an SVOD platform that also appeals to younger viewers and their preferred way of consuming content. Based on our experience, viewers who try Voyo watch our content even more than on linear channels as they can schedule what to watch and when.

And is it still true that those episodes of Ordinace v růžové zahradě that were filmed exclusively for Voyo will never, not even two years later, appear in a linear broadcast, for example on the thematic channels of Nova?

Never say never.

Exactly, the TV strategy regarding premium content in SVOD is changing. Alex Ruzek, your predecessor at Nova, is now the head of programming at your rival Prima, and in a recent interview with, she admitted that Prima is already abandoning the initial idea that some original formats would remain only on the Prima+ streaming service. They want to use all ways of monetising content, from premium placement on SVOD to linear broadcasting with classic TV advertising.

We have made no secret since the beginning that our strategy is primarily based on providing content to viewers through all distribution channels. So it’s probably natural that at some point we will present this content to viewers in linear broadcasting. The question is when and how we will do it.

Do you have a clear plan on how to proceed? And I don’t mean just Ordinace v růžové zahraně but also titles like Iveta from Voyo Originál. When I spoke to Daniel Grunt, the current CEO of Nova, a while ago, he told me that some titles would indeed remain only on Voyo. But the market situation is changing.

It is clear that we need to keep up with global trends but I cannot tell you exactly what will happen in a year or a few years. I think it is terribly important that we remain flexible and respond to emerging needs. We analyze all feasible scenarios and try to find the right steps. We have plans and we will certainly keep our audience informed in due course.

And if we are talking about running Voyo formats in linear broadcasting, you would probably put Voyo Originál on Nova’s main channel.

Definitely. That’s a product line that we are creating for the mass viewer, so if they go to linear broadcasting, it would be on the main station.

The old episodes of Ordinace v růžové zahradě have been broadcast on thematic channels for years, now on Nova Lady. Can female viewers hope that when you reach an episode that was made for Voyo in this archive broadcast it will appear on Nova Lady?

We broadcast archive episodes of Ordinace every day on Nova’s main channel after the Noon TV News. Of course, it can happen. I could tell you now that it would never happen, and we would put them on in six months. At the moment, it is not in our plans but if the situation changes, we will put new episodes of Ordinace v růžové zahradě on the linear broadcast.

Crime dramas and series are a big phenomenon on Czech television but at the same time, in recent years there has been a debate about whether there are too many of them on Czech TV screens. Jan Souček, the new CEO of Česká televize, claimed at the time of his candidacy that Česká televize broadcasted too many crime dramas and he wanted to reduce their number. What do you think about this phenomenon? Are Czech TV stations flooded with crime stories?

I think that’s a terribly simplistic view and conclusion as there are many different kinds of crime series. You have those working with closed episodes and those where the plot stretches over all the episodes. Some series are darker, others are almost comedic. The range is so wide that to say there are too many crime dramas on television would be simplistic. In the end, it always depends on the particular programme and series offered, plus it can be written and produced in many different ways. As long as it is a good story and is well produced, I believe it has a place on the air. At Nova, we don’t want to fill a certain number of days with crime series, we rather want to offer a certain mix. We need our viewers to laugh with us, maybe cry, experience suspense, adventure, excitement - simply some emotion. That’s why crime stories have their place in the programme, and Nova has very strong titles available, such as Policie Modrava, Odznak Vysočina, Kriminálka Anděl or Policie Hvar. We are working on others as well. This genre is popular and successful. We focus on making strong stories rather than producing something to be pigeonholed as just ‘another’ crime drama.

Where will Nova be in five years and will it be the main distribution channel for linear TV content or will it be replaced by Voyo? “I don't think there will be that much change in five years compared to if you ask what it will look like in another 30 years. That would require a more serious discussion. I think that the position of linear channels will not change much in five years,” says Silvia Majeská.


Don’t you have an ambition to create a crime series that would go beyond the Czech and Slovak market and in which foreign TV stations would be interested? Nova often broadcasts foreign series such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, SK Kölsch... Isn’t it possible to create something similar that would be bought from the Czech market by foreign TV stations?

We are certainly open to it and we have several recent examples across the group where we have traded our titles abroad, whether it is the format itself or the final version. We are discussing the sale of some of our series right now. If the opportunity arises and someone is interested, we have no problem selling them our series.

CME owns television stations not only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia but also in other Central and Eastern European countries. There is a similar programming cooperation between them as between Markíza and Nova. You said that you cooperated a lot with the Romanian Pro TV during the preparation of the TV Doma channel. Are Markíza and Nova adopting successful formats from other CME stations?

Within CME, we are in very close contact at the level of programming departments. I consider it a huge benefit that we have a number of great professionals in our groups, people who have a wealth of experience. I am able to share a lot of things with colleagues, we are constantly exchanging various insights. Now, for example, Voyo Adria is taking over the Sex O'Clock series, Slovenian television has adapted the series Der Lehrer using Markíza’s adaptation Pan profesor, and Nova has created its Czech version.

Last autumn, your predecessor at Nova, Alex Ruzek, joined the rival Prima as Programming Director. What was your reaction? Were you surprised?

Alex has worked in television for many years, she is a seasoned professional. We have known each other for a long time, she is experienced and skilled, so it didn’t surprise me at all.

Now you are programming against one another. Do you see this as a personal battle?

Definitely not. We are both professionals, I respect her, and I believe that she will do her best to make their formats successful, which is what I am doing here.

What kind of TV viewer are you? What do you watch on TV and streaming services when you have time? And let’s not just talk about Nova or Markíza.

When I have time, I try to consume all of our things, and when I find extra time, which is sometimes in the dead of night, it depends on what my husband and I agree on. Usually, we watch something that both of us like, so it’s crime or adventure series, mostly some undemanding content.

Your husband is a director, can you relax when watching TV series? Do you suffer from a professional deformation? You are both in the same business, are you still working while watching TV?

It is true that we notice some things that others might not notice at all, but at the same time, we are also people who are sometimes tired and need to switch off. Believe me, it happens to us that we get immersed in the story just like any other viewer and like others we judge what we liked and what we didn’t. The magic of us watching it together is that at the end each of us has a feeling and opinion about it. Besides that, I also like to watch female content, which often inspires my work, especially for Slovakia, where strong female stories work.

What do you think about audience segmentation where each of the three major TV groups in the Czech Republic can claim to be the market leader?

Isn’t it nice when everyone is a winner? In Slovakia, for example, all commercial TV companies target the same age group of viewers. At the same time, I think it’s quite normal and natural, and it’s the way it works in the world. Every TV station has its own strategy and needs it focuses on and wants to be the best at.

Nova is celebrating 30 years of broadcasting. Where would you like it to be when it turns 35?

I was expecting you to ask what it would be like when it turns 60.

Well, the TV and media world is evolving rapidly, and now artificial intelligence is coming in, so even five years is quite a long time.

I believe that we will thrive with the digital transformation that Nova has started with Voyo and that our content will be the most sought after. That viewers watching something from Nova will be confident that it will be of high quality. And I also believe that we will be able to take full advantage of new technologies that will speed up production processes. The most important thing will be that the viewer is satisfied and spends as much time as possible with our content.

Will classical television and linear broadcasting have the same status in five years as today? Or will viewers move more to Voyo? What will be the main content channel - Voyo or TV Nova as the linear channel?

I don’t think there will be that much change in five years compared to if you ask what it will look like in another 30 years. That would require a more serious discussion. I don’t think the position of linear channels is going to change that much in five years, although we are seeing trends in Western Europe and mature markets, whether it is penetration of connected TV or subscribers to streaming services. But what I think we are all feeling is a bit of a viewer’s block from the huge choice of content and options when watching shows. There are so many choices that we don’t really have time to choose anymore, and that’s why I think the value of linear TV is coming back, where the viewers have someone to pre-select the content and they are just left to be entertained.

I have personal experience with that. I often find myself spending 20 minutes choosing what to watch from a streaming service, wasting half the time I wanted to spend watching it, and then I turn it off.

Yes, and that’s why there is linear television that you turn on and there is already some content running that you might be interested in, and you don’t have to spend time selecting it. That’s why I believe that linear TV will continue to be here.