Television in Greece
The first TV broadcast became reality during the 25th Thessaloniki International Fair (3 September 1960). The Studios were organized in the Power Corporation of Greece (ΔΕΗ) pavilion, with Philips supplied and other locally improvised equipment.
Some years later, a small private station started operating round the year from another pavilion in the very same Fair. This station operated until 1968 when the two new government channels started operation in Thessaloniki and requested the elimination of the "Illegal" station.
After the construction of the OTE Tower (Hellenic Telecommunications Corporation) in the Thessaloniki Fair area, OTE started a third state TV channel in SECAM color. The two initial state channels requested the closing and elimination of the new OTE channel, fearing that OTE would drive them to close, because of the superiority of the color picture, the telecommunications network and the technical superiority of OTE. They succeeded and all the equipment, that OTE already had, passed to YENED, which started what now became ERT3 (the third national channel, broadcasting from Thessaloniki).
During the Greek military government period of 1967–74, the programme was a mixture of news and entertainment. A notable serial which still owns the watching record was the war drama O Agnostos Polemos (The Unknown War).
After the restoration of the Republic in 1974, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation ERT continue to dominate, appealing to a much larger audience than YENED. Color television broadcasts began in the late 1970s. Notable people were placed to improve the quality of the national channels, such as Dimitris Horn, Manos Hatzidakis and the Nobel laureate poet Odysseas Elytis.
Finally ERT incorporated YENED.
TV 100 (1988) is the first non-state TV station in Greece. It belongs to the Municipality of Thessaloniki, founded in 1988 by the then mayor of the city Sotiris Kouvelas, who served as mayor until 1989 and a year later, he founded TV station with national coverage in Athens.
In 1982, ERT and YENED merged, forming "ERT" (Ellinikí Radiofonía Tileórasi), with ERT becoming "ERT1" and YENED becoming "ERT2". Broadcasts originally lasted for seven to eight hours daily starting at about 5:30PM with children shows and then the first televised news of the day. In 1987 an experimental teletext type information screen known as "Tilegrafos" (meaning televised words, i.e. telegraph) showed written information on ET2 during the afternoon. By the late 1980s, television broadcasts on ET1 and ET2 (still commonly known as ERT-1 and ERT-2 until later years) had increased to 12–15 hours daily, though it was still common for one or both stations to sign off briefly in the afternoon and sign back on in the early evening hours.
Some illegal broadcasts made short-lived appearances during the 1980s showing mainly movies of adult nature but, in 1987, the City of Thessaloniki began rebroadcasting in a TV frequency parts of European satellite channels, leading to a dispute between the government and the city, as the stations' equipment was confiscated numerous times. The more serious challenge to ERT's TV monopoly, however, appeared with the establishment and operation of TV Plus in the Athens/Piraeus area, which begun broadcasting major US films to the starved-for-diversity Athens public. It is then that ERT decided to pre-empt the challenge to its TV monopoly and any further attempts to put private broadcasts on the air, by re-broadcasting itself foreign satellite channels. In October 1988, the first of these satellite channels made it to the airwaves in Athens to block the frequency used by TV Plus, and as this by-now very popular TV station kept changing its frequency, more and more satellite channels were added by ERT to block the frequencies used by TV Plus. They included: NBC Europe from Great Britain, TV5Monde from France, Sat.1 from Germany, Rai 2 from Italy, and Soviet Central Television via Horizon satellite. These stations were soon followed by MTV Europe and Sky from the United Kingdom, while the broadcasts of Super Channel was taken over by TV Plus, due to the lack of an actual agreement with ERT. Sky eventually morphed into what is now known as Eurosport, which is still rebroadcast in Greece, and Euronews, Rai 1 and Cyprus SAT were eventually added to the lineup. For a short time, NBC Europe was also rebroadcast, as were RTL Plus from Germany and 3sat.
In 1988, ERT also established ET3 a regional state-owned network which focused on issues of Northern Greece, to counter the Athens-centric broadcasts of the other two major state broadcasters at the time. Initially a regional network based in Thessaloniki, ET3 also began broadcasting in Athens, and within a few years, in most other regions of the country.
Thessaloniki was the home of Greece's first non-state owned television station, TV100, owned by the City of Thessaloniki, and TV Plus was the first non-state television station in the Athens region. TV Plus, was owned by Invest Plus SA, a US group headed by Daniel Bourla, with the participation of the Municipality of Piraeus, and its programming was quite innovative for Greek standards at the time, as it broadcast first-run Hollywood feature films with subtitles and no commercials. Soon, TV Plus began to offer an over-the-air subscription service, broadcasting an encoded signal 24-hours a day, which viewers could watch by obtaining a decoder (provided for free by the station) and paying a monthly subscription fee. This was especially revolutionary at the time, as a legal framework for private broadcasting, and private broadcasters, still did not exist in the country.
ERT did not take too kindly to the new television stations which began to crop up on the dial following the governments unsuccessful attempts to stop TV Plus, often changing the frequencies of its own stations around or adding repeaters, to interfere with new private broadcasts. However, in 1989, the Greek Parliament finally passed legislation legalizing private broadcasting (radio and television) and providing provisional licenses to two broadcasters, Mega Channel and Nea Tileorasi (New Television). Mega Channel began officially broadcasting in November 1989 as a national network, while Nea Tileorasi, after several months of broadcasting test bars, disappeared from the airwaves.
Other private broadcasters took advantage of loopholes in the existing legislation and the lack of an organized licensing process to begin broadcasting almost overnight. In December 1989, Antenna TV began broadcasting nationally, named after the successful new radio station by the same name. Mega and Antenna featured similar programming styles, with locally produced comedies and dramas, numerous variety shows (following in the Italian tradition), American films, and tabloid news broadcasts. They immediately won over most of ERT's audience and advertising share, and to this day, are interchangeably the #1 and #2 stations in the audience ratings in Greece, while the ratings of ET1, ET2, and ET3 plummeted (they have recovered significantly since then but still do not challenge the major private networks).
By early 1990, numerous other stations also appeared on the air, including New Channel (no relation to Nea Tileorasi) with movies, music videos and talk shows, Channel Seven-X (with avant-garde programming including foreign films, intellectual programming and a simulcast of French music network MCM), Jeronimo Groovy TV (initially a popular music video station that broadcast in Athens, amidst serious interference from other stations), TeleCity (a right-wing political television station with news and talk shows), 902 TV (owned by the Communist Party of Greece), Kanali 29 (a television station with political and cultural programs and a cult following), and a plethora of other broadcasters, which filled every available VHF and UHF frequency, often broadcasting only for several weeks or months, or with very little programming of note. Many broadcasters even began to broadcast on the same frequencies as other stations, especially ERT's satellite broadcasts, many of which soon completely disappeared from the airwaves, as ERT seemed unwilling or unable to protect its frequencies. Similarly, private stations sprung up throughout the country, in every city and region and most towns.
The color television transmission system SECAM which had been used since the late 1970s finally switched over to the PAL color system widely used in the rest of Europe. PAL was the system used for years in Greece via video tape playbacks on rented movies from video stores but not by ERT. The first TV station to broadcast in PAL was TV Plus, then by the other private TV stations that followed it and eventually by ERT.
In 1993, two new major players entered the market. Skai TV began broadcasting, after a prolonged battle for open frequencies with ERT and other stations, and soon began to broadcast as a new national network following in the footsteps of the highly rated Skai radio station in Athens. Also in 1993, Kanali 29's management was handed over to Niko Mastorakis, who was once again involved in Greek media after a long stint as a movie producer and director in the United States. Kanali 29 was renamed Star Channel, and featured programming rich in American films and TV series, and talk and lifestyle programmes. Star also began to broadcast nationally.
The following year, ERT decommissioned many of its terrestrial satellite broadcasts, and reassigned many of those now-vacant frequencies to Multichoice Hellas, for terrestrial pay-television services a year after TV Plus went off the air following a dispute with Time Warner that had acquired a 25% interest in the company. The name of this new pay-TV service was Filmnet. In 1995, Multichoice followed with another station, Supersport, which soon earned the broadcast rights to many Greek sports.
In 1997, ERT, whose audience had never recovered from the advent of private television, and which up until then lagged behind technologically compared to the largest private networks, revamped its operations, unveiling new logos and a new programming philosophy. The stations were modernized, and ET2 was renamed "NET" (Nea Elliniki Tileorassi). ET1 focused on general-interest programming (movies, sports, various TV series), while NET focused heavily on news and talk programming. ET3 continued to focus largely on Northern Greece, with a large dose of cultural programming.
By the late 1990s, Greece began to see its first major mergers and acquisitions (some of them ill-fated) in the realm of broadcast media. Skai TV was sold, and soon became known as "Alpha-Sky" before completely phasing into its new name as Alpha TV. Kanali 5, a regional television network broadcasting out of Athens, by the former owners of Kanali 29 (and with similar programming to that station), was also revamped, transitioning to "Alter 5" (with a program aimed largely at teenagers and young adults) before fully renaming itself to Alter. Its broadcast reach also gradually expanded, and the station now covers almost the entire country. Channel Seven-X, facing financial difficulties, was also sold, and was renamed Seven, featuring programming heavy on sports and news/talk programs. Seven never quite achieved the success of some of the other stations, as it continued to face financial difficulties even after the sale, and never was able to broadcast outside of certain large cities in the country. New Channel, which broadcast in many major cities but did not offer much original programming, was sold to a new investor and renamed "New Tempo" and finally "Tempo TV", building up a national network of repeaters in an effort to become a major player in the television market, which it partially succeeded in, before financial troubles led to its failure in 2001. Finally, Makedonia TV, a regional private network broadcasting out of Thessaloniki, was purchased by the Antenna TV group, and has served as a secondary network featuring many old programs from Antenna TV, American TV series, and a newscast focusing on Northern Greece. The station now also broadcasts nationally.
Specialty networks had also begun to form. In 1992, TVC, Greece's first 24/24h music channel, began operating in Lesvos island. The channel during the 2000s reformed into the pan-European Music Force Europe, today available in 3 countries. Then, in 1996, Mad TV began operating out of Athens, replacing a small local channel known as Art 68. Mad TV featured programming heavy on hit music videos, similar to MTV and its Greek predecessor Jeronimo Groovy TV (which continued to exist but with a small coverage area and with programming more heavily dependent on talk); both channels, in opposition to TVC, operated in a few-hour rotation. Mad TV did not build a national network of its own, but instead was rebroadcast through local stations throughout the country. TV 0-6 began broadcasting in Athens, with many cartoons and children's shows, while TV Magic, after an ill-fated attempt to become a news-talk station owned by Sokratis Kokkalis, became a station focusing on sports and particularly of Greek sports club Olympiacos, which Kokkalis also owned. Extra Channel was founded in 2000 with a heavy talk focus, and is now known as Extra 3.
In 1999, Multichoice Hellas also formed Nova, Greece's first satellite television subscription service, which initially featured most (but not all) of Greece's major networks, as well as many international networks, and other music and interactive services, which it has continued to expand since then. Nova was to be followed by a competing satellite platform, known as "Magna", by the owners of Seven, which never began operations.
In 2000, Alpha TV founded Alpha Digital, which broadcast Alpha TV, Polis TV (a local station serving Athens owned by Alpha) various thematic stations also operated by Alpha, the radio stations owned by the Alpha group, and a small variety of foreign television networks, headlined by MTV and VH1 (MTV, by that time, was no longer rebroadcast terrestrially in Greece, that ceased in 1999). Despite the popularity of MTV and VH1 and Alpha earning the rights to Greek soccer matches, the company soon went under, leaving Nova as the only company providing pay-TV services in Greece to this day. Plans for a satellite bouquet managed by OTE (the Greek telecommunications company) never went past the test phase, with OTE leasing frequencies on the Hot Bird satellite, rebroadcasting several smaller Greek TV stations as well as many radio stations free-to-air.
The past few years have seen the failure of many television ventures, but the creation and investment in many new ones. Polis TV was relaunched as Channel 9 in December 2005, with programming heavy on news and talk shows. More recently, the original owners of Skai TV returned to the television business, relaunching Skai on the frequencies of Seven TV. Other notable stations that have begun operating in recent years include Channel 10, while TeleCity was renamed Tileasty. Other stations have upgraded and modernized, however, the Greek airwaves are still cluttered with many unlicensed television stations, often broadcasting programs of a low quality (telemarketing, low budget movies, music videos, illegal telephone hotlines, soft pornography).
To this day, the Greek government still has not issued official licenses to most television stations in Greece, which are currently broadcasting in a quasi-legal state. Tenders have been offered for national, regional and local broadcasts as well as terrestrial pay-TV services, which have either been frozen or have failed completely. Despite numerous government pledges, there has not been much movement on this issue in recent years. In the meantime, the airwaves are still cluttered, though things are significantly more organized than they were in the early 1990s. Despite the success of Nova, and the launch of Hellas Sat, cable TV has been slow to follow, only existing on a local level in some communities around Greece until recently, when companies such as OnTelecoms have launched cable (IPTV) platforms.
By the early 2010s all the Greek television stations suffered by the consequences of the country's debt crisis. In this decade two major Panhellenic stations ceased operations due to economic difficulties. Alter stopped its operation on 10 February 2012, after a history of more than 20 years.
The most channels cut their budget by decreasing their original programming (mostly the original series). Except for the high number of reruns, networks started airing a lot of foreign programs, the majority of them being Turkish drama shows. On 27 April 2011, the first transmission of a High Definition free-to-air channel was made by the state-owned ERT HD. Two years later, on 11 June 2013, the Greek Government suspended the operation of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) and automatically fired 2,600 workers, in one of the numerous spending cuts that have been implemented during Greece's ongoing debt crisis. The plug was pulled at 23:10 during the news. On 11 June 2015, the new Government (made up of SYRIZA & AN.EL. parties) reinstated the operations of ERT by hiring back the personnel and broadcasting the three ERT channels ERT1, ERT2, ERT3.
On late 2013, the 902 TV, owned by the Greek Communist Party was sold to a Cypriot-based company A-Orizon Media Ltd. On 11 September, of the same year, the channel was renamed to Epsilon TV. After four years, the network once again sold, this time to Ivan Savides' company Dimera Media Investments Limited. On 24 August 2018, Epsilon TV was replaced by OPEN BEYOND.
Since early 2016, the most Panhellenic networks began pilot High Definition transmissions to a limited number of cities. By the end of the same television season MEGA channel, the oldest privately owned national television station, stopped all live broadcasts, after the workers going on strike, having not being paid for several months. The network continued broadcasting only reruns of old shows for more than two years, however, its ratings didn't hit bottom. The network was forced to stop its transmission on 28 October 2018, at 02:08 am, after almost 3 decades from its launch. Viewers paid a tribute to the network at its final hours. Mega achieved a share of 17,5% (22,5% on 15–44 age group). By the end of 2019, Vaggelis Marinakis purchased the network's archives (programs, shows and footage) and logo.
On 9 February 2019, ERT renamed its HD channel into ERT Sports HD. Now its program aims to sports.
By the end of the decade, Greece had five national state-owned networks, four state-owned national digital television networks, a state-owned satellite broadcast network, and several national private television networks, in addition to approximately 150 local and regional television stations broadcasting across the country. Audience ratings were handled by AGB Hellas. The private networks were six, Ant1 (after Mega's closure the oldest), Alpha, Skai TV, Star Channel and OPEN BEYOND, operating from the Attica region and Makedonia TV operating from Thessaloniki.
The 2020s show the reopening of the Mega Channel. After Vaggelis Marinakis' purchase of the channel's archive, he managed to relaunch Mega, under the same name and with a similar format (a combination of news programs, movies and Mega's old Greek TV shows). The network resumed broadcasting on 17 February 2020.
Digital terrestrial television
In 2005, Alpha TV briefly ran experimental broadcasts in DVB-T locally in Athens, while in Heraklion, Crete, a regional network, CreteTV, in conjunction with the University of Crete, also started digital operation.
In January 2006, the State broadcaster ERT launched free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DVB-T) with three "pilot" channels called Prisma+, Cine+ and Sport+, collectively branded as ERT Digital. The first channel, Prisma+, was targeted at disabled persons, while Cine+ broadcasts movies, and Sport+ broadcasts a sports program. A fourth channel, the Cypriot national channel's satellite program RIK sat, was also retransmitted on digital.
In September 2009, the seven major television stations in Greece started broadcasting in DVB-T MPEG-4, via a company set up by them, Digea. The digital television transition was completed in February 2015 and a total of 156 digital transmitting centres are currently active throughout the country, broadcasting nationwide and regional channels and covering over 96% of the country's population.
First cable television operator in Greece, is located at Kalamaria (Thessaloniki). Hellenic Cable Networks (www.hcn.gr) among cable internet services offers digital video broadcasting - cable and analog TV services without the need of an external STB.
They offered television service bundled with High-speed Internet & Telephony services. Their channel offerings included local Greek networks, international stations and pay-TV networks Nova Cinema & Nova Sports, that were made available to subscribers via an agreement with Greek DTH provider NOVA.
In 2009, Greek Telecommunications giant OTE launched IPTV service called Conn-x TV which was initially available in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Larisa and Iraklion. Greek broadband provider Hellas Online also launched an IPTV platform called hol tv (now Vodafone TV). Vodafone TV offers all major Greek networks as well as news, sports, music and children's channels. It is also the first provider in Greece to offer HDTV as well as Video on demand.
- List of Greek television series
- List of Greek-language television channels
- "Prosopa" Greek Television Awards
- Η ιστορία της τηλεόρασης Kathimerini.gr, 18 April 2011.
- "Κλείνει οριστικά το Alter. Η συχνότητα επιστρέφει στο δημόσιο" (in Greek). Gossip-TV.gr. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
- "Τα κανάλια επιμένουν να μιλούν τουρκικά" (in Greek). Kathimerini.gr. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
- "BBC News - Greece suspends state broadcaster ERT to save money". bbc.com. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- "Στην "Α-ORIZON MEDIΑ LTD" πουλήθηκε ο 902" (in Greek). capital.gr. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
- "Το OPEN ανοίγει και σας περιμένει - Τι θα δούμε την πρώτη μέρα" (in Greek). news247.gr. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
- "Με εντυπωσιακά νούμερα τηλεθέασης έπεσε το μαύρο στο Mega" (in Greek). ifemerida.gr. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
- "Στον Μαρινάκη το MEGA με 34 εκατομμύρια ευρώ - Παίρνει σήμα και ταινιοθήκη" (in Greek). huffingtonpost.gr. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
- "Η μεγάλη πρεμιέρα του ΕΡΤ Sports" (in Greek). digitalinfo.gr. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
- "Γεγονός: Το Mega Channel επέστρεψε - Είναι και πάλι στον "αέρα"" (in Greek). athensvoice.gr. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
- "Digea". www.digea.gr. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
- "OTE launches IPTV service". broadbandtvnews.com. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- "Greece catches IPTV fever". broadbandtvnews.com. Retrieved 7 February 2015.