Sir Bob feels the heat of Atomic fallout in Romania

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The Independent Online

Sir Bob Geldof's attempt to take the Romanian media market by storm looks set to end in tears. Atomic TV, the music television networks backed by Sir Bob, has run into troubles attracting advertisers, and media experts in Eastern Europe fear it may fold.

Sir Bob Geldof's attempt to take the Romanian media market by storm looks set to end in tears. Atomic TV, the music television networks backed by Sir Bob, has run into troubles attracting advertisers, and media experts in Eastern Europe fear it may fold.

The network was launched late last year after the success of a similar venture in Poland. There Sir Bob, who was a founder of the successful Planet 24 TV group, backed American entrepreneur Todd Stump, who was launching a whole portfolio of leisure businesses in the fast-growing market that exists in Poland.

Mr Stump is behind night-clubs, restaurants and TV operations in Poland, all under the Atomic brand name.

The music TV business caught on to the success of the Warsaw rave scene, and was recently bought out by TV investors, UPC. Mr Stump decided the concept would work in Romania. He persuaded Sir Bob, ING Barings and some Polish venture capitalists to back him.

The Romanian market has proved much more difficult. For a start there is not an established music scene, then Atomic launched too late to be placed on international advertisers' schedules, and the Romanian advertising market has also taken a downturn.

"The fundamental problem has been a force majeure," said Heather Potters of ING Barings. "Just prior to the launch there was a rapid devaluation of the currency, an IMF bail-out and the Kosovo war."

Media analysts have downgraded their predictions of the advertising market in Romania for this year from $180m to between $80m and $120m. Of this, it is expected that the majority will go to the two leading commercial stations, PRO TV and Acasa TV.

A number of Western-backed projects have already gone to the wall in Romania, including a city TV station in Bucharest. One local media analyst said: "This market is collapsing around people's ears. Inflation is at 150 per cent, and 60 per cent of people think they were better off under the Ceausescu regime."

Ms Potters admitted that Atomic was facing difficulties but said that she hoped advertisers would be tempted by the station's audience.

"Advertisers are focused on the youth sector, and there is hardly any other media reaching them," she said.

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