EXCLUSIVE: The Israel-Hamas conflict was the first major event in nearly two years to knock the Ukraine War off the top of local news bulletins, the head of one of Ukraine's biggest media companies said, as he appealed for prolonged support and warned about tough financial times ahead.

Yaroslav Pakholchuk, who runs 1+1 Media, told Deadline that the “shift of attention” from Ukraine to Israel was “huge” during the first fortnight of the Hamas war and dominated his news bulletins, although attention has waned. a little since then. The world's eyes have been focused on Israel since the Hamas attack on October 7, and many commentators have raised concerns that support for Ukraine in its nearly two-year fight against Russia could wane, with Joe Biden currently struggling to achieve a Ukrainian. financing package through congress.

“Israeli news became more popular than Ukrainian news in the first two weeks,” Pakholchuk said. “Later, the attention here started to decrease, but of course we noticed that the attention changed [towards Israel] at a global level. People pay attention to every war. Of course this is a good sign, but we also need support here.”

Pakholchuk said his organization “supports Israel” in its war against Hamas and rejected the notion that there is any sense of bitterness now that the global focus has shifted, while also welcoming the help the Ukrainian media sector has received. over the past 22 months or more. . “Many international and local partners supported our media outlets in different ways,” he said.

But he added that “less support is a big problem for the entire country at all levels”, stating: “No one is obliged to help, so it is a question of personal position, the State's position and whether democratic principles are supported. We need help more clearly and definitively than ever before.”

When Vladimir Putin's armies invaded Ukraine almost two years ago, 1+1 joined other major Ukrainian media organizations to create a continuous news channel, United News telethon, with television production placed on the back burner .

Fast forward to December 2023 and things have slowly started to return to normal, Pakholchuk explained, although nowhere near before February 2022. Before the war, 1+1 played hundreds of shows a year, last year that dropped drastically to single digits. single digits and this year the number is in the “tens”, said the CEO.

'The Voice' finale took place in a subway station that was functioning as a bomb shelter

1+1 Media

The focus has been on news programs, talk shows, including The whole country is talking, the odd scripted project like the anthology series backed by Red Arrow Studios International Those who stayed and documentaries like Ukrainian Palaces: The Golden Age “Because we need to document our history,” Pakholchuk said. 1+1 also continued with its local version of The voicewith a thrilling finale taking place in a Kiev metro station that doubled as an air-raid shelter. The roadmap will become a priority when the country's climate improves, Pakholchuk added.

The organization runs seven TV channels along with online news platforms and an in-house production unit. It claims that its channels have a total share of just over a quarter (25.9%) of total Ukrainian views, although it has lately been experimenting with its channel offering, positioning some channels differently in terms of age- target, demographics and gender. This, Pakholchuk explained, is due to the high level of migration abroad since the start of the war, with the approximately 6 million people who left made up mainly of women and children.

Rocky road ahead

Yaroslav Paholchuk

The Ukrainian advertising market improved in the second half of this year and there is financing to be had, but due to a plethora of programs going into production next year, Pakolchuk said 1+1's financial situation could get worse before it gets better.

“This year we mainly used our existing library, but there will be new projects soon and this money will not return immediately,” he added. “The hardest year will be next year or the beginning of 2025, but we have to do this to grow. If we decided to keep the same size, it would be easier, but that's not the case. These investments are high risk.”

News coverage continues to be the cornerstone and the United News channel is still running as 2024 approaches, along with several other news programs on the 1+1 channels.

“Of course this is the top priority because it is our social function and state mission to inform people about the war and counter Russian propaganda,” Pakholchuk said.

On the topic of propaganda, Pakholchuk said combating misinformation has become more difficult as smaller rival Ukrainian sites have emerged that he believes are “manipulating facts to attract attention and ratings.”

“This is a big problem for us,” he said. “It’s like piracy. Unfortunately, some small niche players with little reputation do this and are sometimes backed by Russian money and sometimes without.”

The disinformation war has been ongoing online, as the 1+1 digital operation has seen a sharp increase in views since the war began, Pakholchuk said.

The statistics are impressive. 1+1's news channels on Telegram have skyrocketed from a few hundred thousand subscribers to around two million, and views on YouTube have increased tenfold. “Our news channels are producing the same number of viewers on YouTube in a month compared to the year before the war,” Pakholchuk added.

As 1+1 returns to full-scale television production, Pakholchuk said the organization will not take its eyes off the issue in terms of news. He pointed out that viewing habits differ depending on whether someone lives in a war-torn region of Ukraine or in a region that has remained relatively remote.

“We don't have the answer to what people really want to watch right now, but the only thing we know is that they want the war to end,” he said.

“When there are bombs and rockets in the sky you don't feel like watching anything, but maybe in two or three months, when things are calmer, you'll be ready to watch something. Last year the whole country was terrified, whereas this year we have some segmentation.”