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NEM is ready to return to Dubrovnik – interview with Sanja Božić-Ljubičić
 17 May 2021
After a challenging 2020, Sanja Božić-Ljubičić, CEO and Owner of Mediatranslations, Mediavision and Pickbox, is looking forward to organizing the first in-person event NEM Dubrovnik after the lockdown. In this interview, she talks about the hardships faced in 2020 and what changes she observed on the Croatian market during the year, as well as how NEM extended its activities thru virtual events.

Sanja, 2020 proved quite a difficult year for the TV industry. How has the pandemic affected your operations and what were the main changes in your strategy?

The year 2020 was very challenging for the entire industry, but we at Mediavision, Pickbox and Mediatranslations managed to adapt very quickly to the new situation. We expanded NEM online and launched the NEM Network with virtual events - speaking sessions and screening rooms. Towards the end of 2020, the Pickbox TV channel and Pickbox NOW became available on most major telecoms in Croatia, and one of our last significant steps forward was entering the Bulgarian market in April 2021.

All in all, even though last year was challenging, we managed to get the best out of it and that’s why we’re happy.

We adapted our strategies to the circumstances, and we were given the opportunity to realize some of the projects that had been in the drawer. One of them is the NEM Network, which we had been planning to create for years, but only in 2020 did we manage to add a virtual element to our live events. We live in unpredictable times, so we want to be ready to welcome everything that the future brings us.

What about the earthquakes that hit Croatia in the end of 2020 Will that have an effect on the local market this year?

Unfortunately, in addition to the global pandemic, at the local level, Zagreb and surrounding cities were hit by earthquakes that have left many people homeless and irreversibly changed their lives. The catastrophe in this area has left not only numerous physical but also psychological consequences on the entire population, and this will certainly affect the market in Croatia. Given that much of the state and EU incentives and budgets are focused on disaster recovery, we have yet to see what consequences all these adversities will have on the economy. I hope that the recovery comes quickly so that other sectors can recover from the current crisis as soon as possible.

What have been some of the trends that you observed in the region during the time of pandemic?

I've noticed that people have become more inclined to try something new, so they've been turning to SVOD services more than before. They have finally started to appreciate the availability, quality, and overall better user experience that SVOD services offer compared to pirated content. The entertainment industry has generally proven to be a ray of positivity in the unfortunate circumstances that have befallen us, and I am glad that we have a product that we can offer to the audience in such moments, bring a smile back to their faces or at least distract their thoughts with good stories.

The lockdown has also affected online shopping, which exploded during 2020. This gives hope that people in this region have finally been encouraged to shop online, so the sectors that run their business through e-commerce in Croatia and the region will be able to start growing more than before.

Do you think that the TV industry will be able to recover quickly once the pandemic is under control?

This will certainly depend on the extent of the crisis we will find ourselves in when the pandemic ends. Times are tough for all industries and I just hope the end is near, and then we will, I believe, all come back together stronger than ever.

You held several virtual events last year. Are you happy with the results?

That’s right, for several months we regularly came out with new speaking sessions on the NEM Network and we covered a lot of relevant topics with some of the key people in the industry. We recorded many case studies such as the one with Guy Bison (Ampere Analysis) on streaming service dominance, Arash Pendari (Vionlabs) on the power of content, then Q&A sessions with Alan Cumming, Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey (World of Wonder) and Revital Basel (Keshet International). We also had several panel sessions such as the one with last year's finalists of our TV Writing Contest, who shared their experiences and projects a year after meetings with leading people from the jury of NEM Zagreb TV Writing Contest 2019. In addition to speaking sessions, a part of NEM Network was dedicated to screenings, so companies like ZDF Enterprises and BBC Studios presented their novelties in our country. Due to the postponement of NEM Zagreb, the TV Writing Contest was also held virtually and it was won by interesting and promising creators from Turkey and their project "The Truth and Other Blindspots".

Overall, we are pleased that despite the challenging 2020, we have managed to continue talking about important topics and people have recognized this and followed everything we have been doing in recent months.

What are your expectations for 2021 and what are your contingencies if the coronavirus situation does not alleviate?

I expect another challenging but, I believe, successful year for Mediavision, Pickbox and Mediatranslations. For now, we are planning everything as if this is the last uncertain year and we are making efforts to ensure that all companies run smoothly regardless of the situation. We have a lot of ideas and wishes, we are monitoring the situation and adapting to it, and we are more flexible than ever before.

What are the latest updates about NEM Dubrovnik 2021?

This year, NEM Dubrovnik will be held from September 6 to 9, 2021 and it will consist of three days of lectures, panels, Q&As and smaller networking events while the fourth day will be reserved for sharing impressions and new experiences. Due to the current situation, we are trying to organize a completely safe event for our visitors, so it will be held almost exclusively outdoors.

We will soon announce some of the topics that we will cover as part of this year's market, and they will, as always, be focused on the development of the TV industry in Croatia and the CEE region.

2020 passed without any major 'physical' market events. Do you think that the future belongs to virtual markets?

I’m glad that we have at least some contact with each other to spread ideas and knowledge through online events, but I believe this will remain just one handy complement to face-to-face networking and it won’t replace live events.

What are the major benefits of the 'traditional' markets over the virtual ones?

We are pleased with the events done on the NEM Network, but the online events will never be comparable to those that take place face-to-face. Video has its advantages, it is always available, it can be watched several times, there are no distractions and the quality of the experience depends on the equipment you have. But the experience of following live events, the discussion that can be initiated after a session, the wealth of different opinions and information, meetings and networking – this is all impossible to do with equal enthusiasm over the Internet. And that is why we will be watching each other on the screen only until September, that is, until the NEM Dubrovnik 2021.

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