Television broadcasting in Greece began in 1966, with the first network, EPT (Elliniki Radiophonia Tileorassi) broadcasting out of Athens, as a state-owned monopoly. Original broadcasts were in black and white. A second network, YENED, opened in 1968, also operated by the government and specifically the armed forces. Programming originally consisted of reruns of old American television programs and films, news, and Greek films. The advent of television led to a sharp reduction in both the number of people attending cinemas in Greece, and the amount of films produced.
Production was of a generally low quality in the early days, but several major stars were born, including Nikos Mastorakis, who hosted a multitude of programs but who was seen by many as being too friendly towards the military junta which ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974. During this time, EPT garnered many more viewers than YENED, often with as much as a two-to-one difference.
After the collapse of the Greek Junta in 1974, EPT continue to dominate, reeling in a much larger audience than YENED, which did not modernize as quickly and which was still associated with the military regime that had passed. Color television broadcasts began in the late 1970's, and in 1982, EPT and YENED merged, forming "EPT" (Elliniki Radiophonia Tileorassi), with EPT becoming "ET1" and YENED becoming "ET2."
Broadcasts were originally for seven to eight hours daily, but by the 1980's, 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.
However, throughout the 1980's, as the country began to reform and modernize quickly, audiences began to demand a wider choice in their viewing options, following the example of other European countries which had already allowed private television broadcasts. Pirate broadcasts often took to the airwaves late in the evenings or in the early morning hours, showing movies (often of an adult nature) and other programmings, creating quite a stir. By 1987, it was clear that the public demanded more, and the newly elected mayors of Greece's three largest cities, Athens, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki (who were of the conservative Nea Dimokratia party, then in opposition to the ruling PASOK), promised to deliver municipally-owned radio and TV stations.
In 1987, the City of Thessaloniki began rebroadcasting approximately 10 European satellite channels, causing an instant sensation and leading to long battles between the government and the city, as the stations' equipment was confiscated numerous times. Sensing that the situation was quickly going out of the government's control, EPT decided to pre-empt any further attempts to put private broadcasts on the air, and began to rebroadcast several satellite broadcasters, after first reaching agreements with most of these to have their signals retransmitted terrestrially in Greece. In October of 1988, the first of these stations made it to the airwaves in Athens, many of the stations soon followed in Greece's other major cities. They included: Super Channel from Great Britain, TV5 Europe from France, SAT.1 from Germany, RAIDUE from Italy, CNN International from the United States, and Horizon (from the former Soviet Union). These stations were soon followed by MTV Europe and Sky from the United Kingdom, while the broadcasts of Super Channel soon ceased, due to the lack of an actual agreement with EPT. Sky eventually morphed into what is now known as Eurosport, which is still rebroadcast in Greece, and Euronews, RAIUNO and Cyprus SAT were eventually added to the lineup. For a short time, NBC Super Channel was also rebroadcast, as were RTL Plus from Germany and 3Sat.
In 1988, EPT 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 also home to Greece's first non-state owned television station, TV100, owned by the City of Thessaloniki, and which broadcasts to this day. In late 1988, the first non-state television station also went on the air in the Athens region, TV Plus, owned by Invest Plus SA, a US group, with the participation of the Municipality of Piraeus. The programming was quite innovative for Greek standards at the time, broadcasting first-run Hollywood feature films with subtitles. Soon, TV Plus began to offer a terrestrial subscription service, broadcasting an encoded signal during the evening hours, 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.
EPT did not take too kindly to the new television stations which began to crop up on the dial, often changing the frequencies of its own stations around or adding repeaters, to interfere with the 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 EPT'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 EPT's satellite broadcasts, many of soon completely disappeared from the airwaves, as EPT seemed unwilling or unable to protect its frequencies. Similarly, private stations sprung up throughout the country, in every city and region and most towns.
In 1993, two new major players entered the market. Skai TV began broadcasting, after a prolonged battle for open frequencies with EPT 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 programms. Star also began to broadcast nationally.
The following year, EPT decommissioned many of its terrestrial satellite broadcasts, and reassigned many of those now-vacant frequencies to Multichoice Hellas, which began Greece's first terrestrial pay-television service since the ill-fated TV Plus (which went off the air in 1993). The name of the first pay television Multichoice offered was Filmnet, featuring well-known movies throughout the day and night. In 1995, Multichoice followed with another station, Supersport, which soon earned the broadcast rights to many Greek sports.
In 1997, EPT, 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.
Unfortunately the programming of NET suffered from mismanagement - and continues to suffer to this day. Unlike all other stations in the country, NET seem incapable of maintaining a reliable viewing schedule, making it impossible for viewers to tune in to their favourite programmes. Even after only three or four hours of evening telecasts, NET are regularly several hours behind schedule. New programmes get inserted and scheduled programmes get deleted with no explanation whatsoever. Rumour has it that late night technicians substitute scheduled programmes for those their own friends would rather see. At the current rate of deterioration, NET, who otherwise have one of the best technological infrastructures in Greek television, will not be around much longer.
By the late 1990's, 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 in to 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, 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 00's 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 Socrates Kokkalis, became a station focusing on sports and particularly of Greek sports club Olympiakos, 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 Hotbird 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, pornography).
A recent scandal emerged in which a number of television stations based out of Thessaloniki, owned by Vasilis Hristidis were accused of conning thousands of viewers out of millions of Euros worth of money, through a televised scam known as "Photofault." These programs were rebroadcast through other similar illegal stations throughout the country, and many remain on the air today, despite an eight-year jail sentence that was announced for Hristidis.
In early 2006, EPT began broadcasts of EPT Psifiaki, a bouquet of three thematic television stations broadcasting digitally, currently in Athens, Thessaloniki and Central Greece (soon to be expanded). These stations are CINE+, SPOR+ and PRISMA+ (a station focused on the handicapped and those with special needs). Earlier in 2005, Alpha TV briefly ran experimental broadcasts in DVB-T locally in Athens, while in Heraklion, Crete, a regional network, Kriti TV, in conjunction with the University of Crete, has been operating experimental digital terrestrial television broadcasts for the past two years.
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 1990's. Despite the success of Nova, and the launch of Hellas SAT, cable TV has not followed, and no organized cable network exists in Greece, outside of several localized efforts in a couple of cities and towns in Greece.
Today, Greece has four national state-owned networks, three state-owned national digital television networks, a state-owned satellite broadcast network, and several national private television network, in addition to approximately 150 local and regional television stations broadcasting across the country. Audience ratings are handled by AGB Hellas, which, however, is currently under investigation by the Greek government for mismanagement.
In addition, ERT rebroadcasts several satellite broadcasters in various large cities in Greece. These include:
(for many of the above, see below for Peloponissos)
Pay TV Networks
radiofono.gr links to the sites of most Greek TV and radio stations.
media.net.gr complete listing of radio and television stations broadcasting in Greece, by region. Also, links to stations webcasting on the internet.
MME.gr online catalog of major radio and television stations in Greece
Greek TV Idents Archived site with the presentation graphics of major Greek television stations.
etv.gr Greek TV stations webcasting online (including Alter, Mad, ERT Sat, Vouli (Parliament) TV, Athina TV, Cyprus SAT and others)
Lazer Streams Greek Satellite TV and Radio Information and News also links to Greek TV and Radio Streams