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Lukashenka's friend, singer and state TV fighting over TV ads market
Singer Alesya, Syarhei Tsyatseryn, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Ivan and Natallia Eismant
Five years ago an advertising empire was set up by businessman and tennis player Syarhei Tsyatseryn from the inner circle of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and businessman Leanid Minets, husband of singer Alesya. They sold advertisements on 15 TV channels and 5 radio stations broadcasting in Belarus. Some of those ads were exclusive. Today, the empire is drying up before our eyes, and the sale of ads and rating measurements have been overtaken by state TV channels.
In 2019, the TV ad market was estimated at about $40 million. According to experts, over the "COVID year" of 2020, it lost about 7%. But it remains a tidbit. To be fair, even if all of it went to the state channels, it wouldn't be enough to pay for their work.
Here's how this market was divided and redistributed.
Minets is the key
There are several legal entities active in the media advertising market that are linked to Tsyatseryn, Leanid Minets and his wife Volha Minets, better known as Alesya. She is the daughter of the "Siabry" (friends) band frontman Anatol Yarmolenka. These are, first and foremost, Trio Media, which owns Belarusian TNT International and BelMuzTV, and secondly, Alcazar Media Service, which sells TV and radio advertising.
Another important (and profitable) business in the TV world, in which the Minets spouses and Syarhei Tsyatseryn are involved, is studying the ratings of TV channels, on which advertising rates depend. They actively guarded this tidbit against outside interference. For example, in December 2017, their company ViAiBel circulated a letter among advertisers and advertising agencies criticizing media auditors, who from time to time were engaged to prepare tender bids.
No longer friends
But the state tv stations were constantly dissatisfied with this monopoly on rating measurement and their low advertising revenues. For a while, they could do nothing about Tsyatseryn's firms. After all, he is an influential man who is sometimes seen next to Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
By early 2019, however, they managed to get to Lukashenka on their side. The Belarusian leader was offered to create a new system of media measurement. At the same time, in 2019, the state channels merged and created a sales house "Television Advertising Alliance".
As of January 1, 2020, the state companies terminated their contracts for advertising airtime sales with Alcasar Media Service LLC and ViAiBel LLC of Tsyatseryn and Minets spouses. TV-Advertising Alliance Ltd started placing ads on TV channels of Belteleradiocompany, ONT, STV, RTR-Belarus and Mir on its own.
Blackmail and manipulation
The next blow was dealt to the rating component of the Tsyatseryn and Minets empire. The founders and managers of the Television Advertising Alliance stated through the state agency BELTA that the contract between Alcazar and Real Dimension LLC (we told you about it and its founders here) for research on TV viewing of Belarusian channels was concluded without any coordination with the broadcasters.
"We believe that the results of the research should not be an element of blackmail and manipulation in unfair competition," reads the statement.
There's nothing straightforward here, of course, but blackmailing Belarusian TV bosses like Ivan Eismant, whose wife works as press secretary for Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and others with ratings is certainly a tough move.
Alcazar is free to go
A few months later, in April 2020, Lukashenka backed a proposal to create a state media measurement platform. Amid the scandal, a separate platform for rating measurements was created at the state-run Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS). A mysterious CJSC MediaIzmeritel appeared as well. It is located in a building on Branyavy lane, where Lukashenka's first residence was located in the 1990s.
By the end of 2020, Alcazar was selling ads only on VTV, BelMuzTV, TNT and several radio stations. In 2021, the company announced that it would cease operations. All of its functions were taken over by Trio Media. The team also moved there.