The core of the contemporary Russian media system is represented by the federal nationally distributed television channels. Terrestrial on-air television in Russia is generally available: 99 percent of the population receives at least one TV channel. TV viewing time in Russia is rather high – about 353 minutes (5 hours and 53 minutes) on average. For 86 percent of Russians TV remains the main source of news, and 56 percent of them acknowledged that they trust it. About 18 percent of Russian viewers subscribe to cable platforms, while 12 percent rely on satellite platforms. The regions most highly developed in this respect are Moscow, St. Petersburg and the 11 largest industrial centres (with populations of more than a million).
The media landscape is characterised by the dominance of a few federal broadcasters operating 10 free on-air TV channels transmitted from Moscow. Regional TV stations are relatively insigniﬁcant, being in many cases regional aﬃliates of Moscow entertainment networks. National federal public television channels are almost universally available, but do not have the programming responsibilities of public-service broadcasters. The group includes:
- channel Pervyi kanal (The First Channel) with mixed state and private ownership, operated by the namesake broadcaster of which 25 percent is owned by NMG;
- state-owned channels Rossija 1, Rossija 2, Rossija K (Culture) and Rossija 24, operated by the VGTRK state broadcaster;
- children’s channel Karousel operated by the Pervyi kanal and VGTRK;
- Pyatyi kanal (Channel 5) – the only regional channel from St. Petersburg with national distribution;
- commercial broadcaster NTV, owned by state operated Gazprommedia, an aﬃliate of the national monopoly GazProm company;
- the state channel TV-Tsentr (TV Centre) owned by the Moscow government.
With the Russian digital switch over in 2019, these channels are planned to become free and universally available as part of the ﬁrst digital multiplex. The state maintains a ﬁrm position in the television industry by supporting the technical infrastructure, controlling the ﬁnancial operations of the state channels and formally and informally inﬂuencing news ﬂows.
Several media companies of national importance lead the media market today, including the state broadcaster Vserossiyskaya gosudarstvennaya televizionnaya i radioveshchatelnaya kompaniya (the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company - VGTRK), Gazprom Media, a company with state and private ownership, as well as the purely commercial organisations, the National Media Group (NMG). Apart from VGTRK, the latter three operate in various segments of the media business – press, broadcasting and online.
Another group of broadcasters comprises entertainment networks (REN TV, CTC, TNT), which have a strong presence in the regional markets. And the third group consists of smaller broadcasters with entertainment and niche focus such as 2x2, TV 3, Peretz, MTV, Yu, Disney, etc The number of regional TV companies has been increasing and there are about 700 local stations, both public and private.
Since the early 2000s the development of non-terrestrial pay TV became an important trend. In 2016, there were 26 terrestrial channels (among them, 20 generally accessible digital multiplex channels), numerous regional TV broadcasters and more than 20 non-terrestrial thematic channels distributed in the networks, and they accounted for 14.3 percent of the total television audience.
The leading cable platform providers at the national level are the Moscow-based NKS (with 4.7 million subscribers), Comstar (2.4 million), Acado (1.3 million) and the regional providers ER Telecom (880,000) and Moline (870,000). Direct satellite broadcasting (DBS) is dominated by NTV+, established in 1998 and with a subscriber base of 550,000 in 2010, and Trikolor TV, established in 2005 with 3.1 million subscribers which became the largest satellite TV platform provider in Russia (and all of Eastern Europe, for that matter). Both cable and satellite TV platforms also provide limited IPTV services.
In 2009, Russia adopted a Federal Program of transition to digital broadcasting “Development of Television and Radio Broadcasting in the Russian Federation in 2009 - 2015”. And although Russians in general were aware of the program implementation process, both broadcasters and viewers faced a number of challenges. Among them was a need for additional investment in home television equipment, the creation of a national network of stable digital signal transmission and regional broadcasters’ access to digital multiplexes. The realisation of the program has been postponed until the end of 2018, although now almost 94 percent of Russian population can receive the digital TV signal.