An inside take on Israel’s TV biz

Rhonda Attar, GM of one of Israel's leading broadcast companies, Tel-Ad, gets us up to speed on the company's channels and the state of TV and viewer trends in Israel.
September 22, 2008

Rhonda Attar is the general manager at Jerusalem’s Tel-Ad Broadcasting Channels – one of Israel’s leading broadcast and content companies. Established in 1973, Tel-Ad holds the Israeli broadcasting rights to several international channels that it reversions locally for broadcast on Israeli cable and satellite platforms, as well as broadcasting overseas to international viewers. Tel-Ad and the US’ E! Entertainment Television recently renewed their programming deal for E! Israel, a channel that provides viewers with both local content and E!’s Hollywood fare. Here, Attar brings us up to speed on Tel-Ad and the state of Israeli TV industry and its viewers.

How much non-fiction TV do you air?
Currently, between our various channels, approximately 3,000 hours of non-fiction are aired a year.

How many channels does Tel-Ad run?
We operate six cable/satellite channels in Israel: E! Entertainment; History; The Biography Channel; MGM; MGM HD and She, our new women’s channel launching on the yes satellite platform in November. We also operate three international channels for MGM.

Do you do many co-productions with international partners to make non-fiction shows, or do you mainly do acquisitions?
We mainly acquire.

What’s the best way for producers to pitch non-fiction shows to you, if you do indeed accept such pitches?
Proposals both written and visual.

How has the TV industry in Israel changed over the past few years?
The past few years have been very deceptive in terms of growth. On the outside, it seems that there’s a burgeoning industry – we’ve seen the addition of several new commercial channels, a near 100% cable/satellite penetration, the introduction of PVRs, VOD and HD. But on the inside it’s been a real rough ride, with all the big players tottering on shaky economic ground and handing down the instability by placing the entire production chain onto a starve-fast diet which has stunted local growth all around.

How have the tastes of Israeli viewers changed?
Israeli viewers are truly global content TV-savvy consumers. They’ve been exposed for over a decade and a half to an extremely prolific local commercial TV industry and a robust multi-channel environment and through it they’ve been utterly inundated with just about all the content that exists worldwide, be it telenovellas, Bollywood or local versions of every successful international reality format. So their well-seasoned tastes definitely pattern worldwide trends with probably only two exceptions; an insatiable need for local news and current affairs due to the ongoing security situation and a definite savoir-fare receptiveness to foreign programming due to Israel’s large immigrant-based population.

Which genres are doing well on your channels?
For the most part, since our channels are niche and content-genre-specific, it’s not a particular genre that performs better, but rather the content of a specific show. In addition, our local content almost always outperforms international fare, i.e. coverage of the local Israeli Oscars on E!, the ‘Pioneering Companies’ on History or local biographical profiles on Bio.

What’s the favorite part of your job?
The entire creative process, whether it’s customizing or localizing international brands or creating new content and brands.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.