“One of the things I want is to get back to fiction as soon as possible” – Meios & Publicidade

Carlos Rodrigues, director of Correio da Manhã and CMTV

Carlos Rodrigues took over the leadership of Correio da Manhã and CMTV four months ago. In an interview with M&P, he outlines the objectives for the projects and analyzes the market.

Meios&Publicidade (M&P): Does CMTV cannibalize CM in any way?
Carlos Rodrigues (CR): The discourse of CMTV’s cannibalization in relation to paper is a false issue and I explain it very easily. Without CMTV, CM’s operation today would be much smaller, just see, for example, the operation of other newspapers that do not have an aggregated television project. If we think that someone stops buying the newspaper because they see it on television – which I still think doesn’t happen -, we have to think on the other side, that the operation of paper, without the revenues, without the framing and strength of television, would be much inferior. There is no cannibalization, on the contrary, there is empowerment. CM today is powered by the strength of the CMTV brand. As a matter of fact, one of the challenges, which is also part of the strategic plan, is that the CM has to move away from television. For a simple matter, the CM is increasingly the CMTV newspaper. And we need to distinguish brands a lot.

M&P: Has it already happened? Reversed.
CR: It already happens. And we have to reaffirm, for us it is evidence, for the public that buys from us as well, and for the public that does not buy from us, that CM has a unique and unparalleled personality, even in relation to CMTV. CMTV, after almost a decade, already has its own strength and personality. Paper must emancipate itself from television.

M&P: Who does CMTV compete with?
CR: With all cable channels.

M&P: More with information channels or generalists? We usually say that it is an information channel, but it is registered as a generalist.
CR: It is registered as a generalist channel on the ERC, in fact it pays higher rates for that, because it has content that is not just informative. Historically, the big challenge on international cable channels has been “when there is no news, how do you deal with the dead times”. And there are several proposals there. SIC Notícias makes or with golf programs, advertising, with other types of entertainment. TVI24 has already done it with football, hockey and basketball games. RTP 3 occupies CNN’s canned goods, which are huge. We busy with light entertainment. With a very clear proposal. What is the difference between these four channels? It’s just that we clearly tell the viewer that we give all kinds of content. However, whenever there is news, everything stops. We have total grid agility, because we are permanently enslaved with the priority of information. Why generalist? Because we have a clear proposal to occupy the times when information is not an absolute priority. With light entertainment, with Manhã CM and Tarde CM. But we are very clear in communicating with the viewer: as soon as there is news, everything stops. We compete directly with our twin channels: SIC Notícias, TVI24 and RTP3.

M&P: Do they still have growth potential? You need to add up all the others to get your numbers.
CR: We have more than everyone else together. I am convinced that a channel of this kind is a channel that the Portuguese will increasingly have at home as a permanent company. I don’t know what the roof is, it won’t even have a roof. However, let’s add content to it. One of the things I want is to get back to fiction as soon as possible. It has to be a fiction that is adapted to the CMTV audience.

M&P: Are we talking about soap operas?
CR: We are talking about formats adapted to the audience and the DNA of CMTV, no more and no less.

M&P: The soap opera experience didn’t go well, so much so that it was interrupted.
CR: The telenovela changed its schedule, it was broadcast in its entirety. The novel concept is a long fiction concept. The analysis I do today is that it does not suit CMTV’s target audience. The target audience likes your channel because it is a reality channel, we are reality television, the Portuguese reality. The fiction must also be aimed at the audience created by CMTV itself. They are particular, specific and different formats, maybe they don’t exist anywhere else, but we’re going to have them. On television there are two fundamental points, one is to move towards fiction and the other is to see how we will face the challenge of streaming. It’s fundamental.

M&P: Still in fiction…
CR: It will be fiction of proximity. This is the disconnect between CMTV and the telenovela format, the telenovela format is for an audience other than CMTV. We realized this abruptly, in the air – we responsible for the channel, I’m not putting myself out of it – but we have to understand the signals it gave us.

M&P: What is the ideal format? Series, movies?
CR: I don’t think it’s time yet… We like to talk about what we do and not what we’re going to do. We don’t make big ads. Let’s go back to fiction. We are a company that made fiction in a certain way, it’s not the right one, let’s change it. We learn from the audience.

M&P: At what time can fiction come in?
CR: It depends on what fiction it is and what grid it is. Always with a principle, if there is news, the fiction will fall. I prefer to talk about what I have already done, we have already created a different newspaper at a time where there was great potential for growth, which was at 11 am, we are creating another newspaper at another time in which we need to grow, which is Directo CM at 5 pm, we reinforced the proposal of a late night at the weekend with new editions of Rua Segura Extra. These are things that we have already done, that people can evaluate.

M&P: The return to fiction will increase grid costs.
CR: This is necessarily obvious. But always with your feet firmly on the ground. If there is one thing I can confirm, it is that the decisions of the Cofina group are always economically sustainable. And this is a sine qua non condition. Although we had this difficulty with the theme of the telenovela, we are still very healthy financially, this never called into question the sustainability of the project. Why? We always make rational decisions.

M&P: Streaming, the other theme?
CR: This one then is even more for the future. We have to face this problem, but in CM mode. We have to face all the challenges. People sometimes don’t understand… When a channel is born, it stays forever. Anyway, today to say this is already dangerous because of the death of TVI24, but CMTV will remain forever. And to stay forever you have to always grow, you have to do new things, you have to find new audiences, have new ideas, hire young people, hire people who think outside the box.

M&P: Cofina is a solid group, but it is often talked about the possibility of being sold.
CR: You will have to ask the shareholder. I don’t think it will happen, but you have to ask shareholders. We work only thinking about the spectator and the reader, this is fundamental. We do free journalism and we will continue to do so.

M&P: There are few groups, or even titles, profitable.
CR: Unfortunately, very few indeed. I even think it’s just Cofina and Impresa. Media Capital loses, Global Media loses. I think there is also a management challenge that is important to face. But it’s up to me only to talk about CM and CMTV. We will always continue to make all decisions based on the interest of the reader and viewers and that interest implies that they are profitable products.

M&P: In March 2023, when CM celebrates its 44th birthday, what do you plan to announce?
CR: Then the restructuring that is underway in the newspaper will be completed and on the newsstands, in order to maintain the audience we have and look for new audiences. CMTV will continue to lead and on the website we will continue to increase revenues. If we have these three conditions fulfilled, the team will have been successful. Perhaps with some women already on the team.

* The full interview can be read in issue nº895

Source: Meios & Publicidade by www.meiosepublicidade.pt.

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