The network began broadcasting to the coverage area of Skopje with fifty employees before expanding reach to the rest of the country. Kanal 5 has a strong aim of being a part of every household. Kanal 5 TV currently has an audience reach of 96% of the Macedonian population.
Ivan Mircevski is KANAL 5 CEO. Ivan recently decided to acquire custom made music themes from Music Partner for some of his TV shows. We have asked Ivan to describe the joy and challenges of running a popular national TV channel in the young country of Macedonia.
Music Partner: Managing a TV channel was not your first ambition. Could you tell us the path you followed, from School to journalism to TV executive?
Ivan Mircevski: The beginning was with my interest in music as a kid. I was the lead singer in a school choir with a soprano voice. I have won a few prizes for best soprano voice, when Macedonia was still part of Yugoslavia. As a young boy, having such a high pitch was somewhat embarrassing, I felt I sounded like a girl and was teased by my friends. To add to the misery, The musical Director of the choir had forbidden me from attending any outdoor sport, afraid I would catch a cold before a singing competition which were very popular in former Yugoslavia. At the end of elementary school, I felt free from the choir obligations, but the passion for singing is still there, and even if my voice has matured, I am no longer a soprano, I enjoy karaoke with friends from time to time. I attended a college of technology, my interest was about emerging computer technology and their software but was distracted by other interests' young men have, going out to clubs and coming back when the sun is rising does not play well for successful college education. Disillusioned, my mother stated she could no longer support me if I was not more serious about school and found me a job as a video editor for the Macedonian public broadcasting company.
In 1993, During a New Year program I was editing, many video clips from international pop artists were part of the program. I recognized all of them and the Editor in Chief was surprised by my knowledge of foreign pop while being in my early 20s. He suggested I host a music show on MRT3 (Macedonian Radio & TV channel 3). I told him I needed to think about it but did not have a choice, he would send a car to my home the following day and pick me up to be sure I would show up. With no preparation, I was given the playlist just before the show started and I had to improvise, speaking about the artists where they are from, etc.
Unsatisfied by my performance, I went to the control room totally depressed and stated I could not host the show, I am not good at this, but the Editor in Chief stopped me and said no! You will practice and get better and still host the show.
A week later, I was prepared and perfect and this is how I started in the broadcasting industry. I worked for MRT until 2009, created my own shows.
I then received a call from KANAL 5, they told me it was time for me to join a private broadcast organization, after few conversations I decided to join the KANAL 5 team and hosted a popular talk show. Shortly after, the CEO of KANAL 5 resigned and I was contacted by ownership telling me that my shows had great ratings I was doing a great job, did I want to take the leadership of the station?
I said yes, but they wanted to make sure I knew what that meant. It is no longer about hosting popular shows, it is about managing people, operations while increasing ratings.
I was on board and took the position. I am proud to say that in my 10 years as CEO, the ratings have increased by 85%. From singing in the choir as a kid to CEO of KANAL 5, this is my story.
MP: KANAL 5 was first created as a local channel, how did it become national with such success?
IM: When KANAL 5 was created, it became a successful urban oriented channel, broadcasting programs to the attention of Skopje residents. It acquired a nationwide license in 2004 but during its existence as a local channel, the programing was about news, political shows, extremely popular in Macedonia giving its recent history, game shows, quiz shows, all very popular, putting KANAL 5 on the top of the list for nationwide license which it acquired in 2004. That was before my time, I joined a few years later but the channel capitalized on its local programing and expended to reach 96% of household in the country.
MP: Other than the news, what are the viewers of KANAL 5 interested in and what are the most successful shows?
IM: Regarding shows produced by KANAL 5, the news and political shows are the most in demand by the viewers. Macedonia had been in conflict with Greece for about 25 years. that disagreement has been resolved in 2019 but now Macedonia finds itself in conflict with Bulgaria claiming Macedonia is part of Bulgaria. The tension and debates over this issue is of great interest to Macedonians hence the success of political shows.
Macedonia is rich in culture, but its economy is small. The last census was carried out 20 years ago and registered around 2 million residents. A new one is scheduled for the fall and will reveal the growth of the Macedonian population.
Other than news and political shows, entertainment and especially variety shows, music, singing are also extremely popular. There is a singing contest which is broadcast in all former Yugoslav countries excepted Slovenia, it is called "Stars of the Grant". Grant is a music production company from Serbia. all countries are sending emerging talents to enter the competition. This is a popular show with viewers of KANAL 5. There is a saying in our country: " if you are looking for a good singer, you must go to Serbia. If you are looking for a good dancer, you must go to Bosnia, but if you are looking for good singers who are also good dancers, you must go to Macedonia (Laughs).
MP: As a CEO, you supervise all the station operations. How is your organization working from programing to live broadcast to website management, who helps you make decisions?
IM: Regarding programing, we use an important tool to measure viewership. Nielsen which is present all over the world is reporting daily ratings, helping us in our choices for the program grid. Using those tools is important because it is a direct connection with the audience.
I am fortunate to lean on a great team composed of 159 collaborators, among which the Programing Manager who handles all entertainment programing and Editor in Chief, handling all news and political shows.
Regarding our website which is an integrated part of the channel, we have a team of 9 collaborators updating in real time the news, the various information of concern to our audience, from sport results to weather forecast, but also the possibility to stream live.
MP: Do you produce shows that are sold outside of Macedonia and what are the shows you air that are produced outside of your borders?
IM: Currently, we are not exporting any of our shows, we did participate to an exchange program with Bulgaria airing some of their shows while they would air some of ours, but it was somewhat limited. We wanted to export a popular political show named "Only the Truth" but the recent developments between the 2 countries have forced us to cancel negotiations.
We do however buy TV series and Soap Operas from Turkey. Our ratings are showing that Turkish TV series are most popular with our audience. I am not sure of the reasons, Turkish series are certainly well produced, but they are also very exclusive in the sense that you cannot watch them outside of authorized networks.
We also tried a Japanese show. It was a documentary about food which was very well received by viewers and will keep on buying documentaries from other countries. Overall, about 30% to 35% of our programs are produced abroad.
MP: Looking at the international TV landscape, do you have a model you are looking to follow?
IM: My ambition for KANAL 5 is not to carbon copy the structures and methods of others. I admire the American and British channels, I also like Italy's television, lots of live variety shows made with humor, but could not apply some of their strategies. First, culturally, Macedonia is way different than countries in Western Europe or North America. The audience is not responding the same way to the same shows. We must consider what our audience wants; therefore, we are trying to balance our programing to reflect their wishes. KANAL 5 has a 50/50 rule. 50% of the programing must be entertainment while the other 50% is essentially news and socio-economic or political shows. We are a generalist station.
MP: Is KANAL 5 looking to negotiates the rights to broadcast international events such as the Olympic games?
IM: In 2009, I went to Switzerland with a presentation to acquire the rights to broadcast UEFA soccer games, but it is extremely expensive and cable channels specialized in sports are paying premium for those rights today.
Regarding Olympic Games, the broadcast rights are attributed by the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) which Members are the public broadcasters who beneficiate from special prices to cover the event. It becomes therefore impossible to broadcast such event for us.
MP: Macedonia is a young country and KANAL 5 a young station. What are the improvements you are looking to bring to the station?
IM: First and foremost, we need to develop more in house productions. For that purpose, we plan on building a new studio facility allowing more ambitious productions.
This investment has for first objective to produce Game and quiz shows.
We are also talking with colleagues of TV channels from the other former Yugoslavian countries to co-produce an entertaining competition show which I am not at liberty to disclose more info at the moment, but it is an exciting project. Macedonians love competition.
MP: You chose to work with Music Partner to produce music themes for KANAL 5 shows. What motivated your choice?
IM: For starter, Music Partner approach me with a message: composing and producing the music themes of my shows for free! Turns out, I was looking to refresh the music for our newscast show, which is broadcast 6 times daily. But, if getting quality music for free sounded good, I needed to check WHO Music Partner was before agreeing to a meeting. I research the company, went on their website, and was impressed by the work they had already done and the fact that I am not one of their clients but a PARTNER.
The first meeting was for me to confirm that Music Partner was all they were advertising to be, and I felt amazingly comfortable from the beginning exchanging with a group of fun professionals, so much so that I decided to send to them the existing theme of my newscast the same day and ask them to compose and produce a fresh theme, following some of my directions. 3 days later, I received a theme for the newscast, listened to it, appreciated the artistic ideas and wanted to bring a couple of modifications. Music Partner executed perfectly, were very reactive and diligent and I received the following day the perfect theme I was looking for, which is currently illustrating our newscast. I made my team listened to it. We all had a smile, we were looking for a dramatic way to introduce the newscast, matching the visuals and Music Partner hit bullseye with a sound quality beyond my expectations.
The flexibility of their team and willingness to respond to my demands had convinced me to work with them. They also created the theme for a comedy show and I will ask them in the next few weeks to also produce themes for a few others of our shows.
MP: Beyond the Nielsen rating, do you have way of communication with your audience to find out their level of satisfaction and collect ideas on what they would like to watch?
IM: Three time per year, we organize a meeting with some of our viewers. We officially announce it and invite viewers from different backgrounds, different ages from different areas of Macedonia to join us for lunch and discuss existing programs but especially future programs. When we survey them, a large majority state their interest in game and quiz shows.
While we are at KANAL 5 brainstorming on potential game and quiz show ideas, we are still thinking of acquiring a popular franchise from abroad.
MP: Does KANAL 5 generates revenues on commercials exclusively?
IM: Yes. Out of the 5 nationwide channels in Macedonia, Kanal 5 is the only one working exclusively with the resources from its commercials revenues. It is more difficult for us but being independent financially is also guaranteeing our editorial freedom.
Over 80% of the commercials viewed on KANAL 5 are from foreign announcers.
Among them, consumer products with companies manufacturing and selling appliances, computers, food and beverages, soft drinks, wine and beers, but also telecommunication companies, and the automotive industry.