The truism that ‘no two deals are ever the same’ has never been more accurate than in today’s climate of intricate production partnerships linking companies from around the world. The main feature in our MIP-TV special report traces the evolution of these partnerships through the complex deals that led to new children’s television shows that are now being marketed at MIP-TV. The report also includes a discussion with U.S. studios on television programming trends, as well as a glimpse into the television markets of Germany, England and France.
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Competition in the German children’s television market has increased dramatically in recent years, and has heated up even more with the launch earlier this year of the new Kinderkanal by Germany’s publicly owned stations ARD and ZDF.
There are as many as 12 children’s broadcast outlets now competing for an audience of approximately 8.9 million German children age three to 13. The German television market is divided into 16 regions, representing a total of about 33 million households. Of these, 18.4 million households have cable access and 8.7 million are hooked up to satellites. Another 5.7 million households are serviced by terrestrial channels.
One of the aggressive newcomers is Super RTL, owned equally by the Walt Disney Company and Luxembourg-based CLT-UFA. Now considered to hold third place among children’s channels in Germany, Super RTL increased the stakes for young viewers when it launched two years ago.
‘Our marketing philosophy is to position ourselves as a family channel,’ says Super RTL spokesperson Andreas Seitz. Launched in April 1995, Super RTL built an average market share of 12 percent of viewers between the ages of three and 13 within a year.
Seitz adds that Super RTL intends to expand its inventory of animated shows with new series such as The Oz Kids, Package Dragons and The Gnomes, and expects to add more kids programming broadcasts in the late morning and early afternoon.
(The German children’s market leader is PRO 7, with a 17.2 percent market share, followed by RTL with a 16.1 percent share. German television market share refers to all children viewers between three and 13 years old, measured over a 24-hour period throughout the week.)
In the evening between 5:30 and 7:45 p.m., Super RTL, whose schedule contains one-third Disney productions, airs Disney Prime Time, with such animated shows as Bonkers, Goofy & Max and Die Dinos. The programming block is believed to reach an average of 23.3 percent more children than any other channel during that time.
‘Our aim is to take over the leading role in the children’s market,’ says Seitz.
But the job is getting tougher. Nickelodeon opened in Germany in July 1995, just a few months after the launch of Super RTL, positioning itself as ‘Germany’s first children’s broadcast station.’
‘We offer a full program for children,’ says Christophe Erbes, head of programming for Nickelodeon Germany. ‘We make television from a kid’s point of view,’ he says.
Nickelodeon promotes itself as the television channel that ‘gives children a voice.’ Nickelodeon Germany keeps in touch with children through frequent market studies and questionnaires, invites youngsters to visit its studios in Düsseldorf and, once a month, allows a child to take over the job of Erbes for a day.
Ninety percent owned by Viacom International and 10 percent by Germany’s Ravensburger Film + TV (producer of internationally known programs like Käpt’n Blaubär), Nickelodeon Germany broadcasts from 6 a.m until 8:00 p.m. via satellite and the cablenets of German cablecaster Telekom.
Nickelodeon also added a terrestrial channel earlier this year. Nickelodeon’s program structure is based on half-hour formats, with a mix of genres from live action to animation to documentaries. There are also 10 live broadcasts each day. The programming mix is split evenly between international and German-based Nickelodeon productions and co-productions.
‘We have no problems covering our programming requirements,’ says Erbes.
Instead of the 12 minutes per hour of commercial time allowed on commercial stations, Nickelodeon Germany decided to air only seven commercial minutes, and restricted the spots to the beginning and end of each show. As of this February, official German measurement showed that Nickelodeon had a market share of 2.5 percent of the total children’s market, up from an average share of 1.7 percent in late 1996.
However, according to Nickelodeon, its market share of kids viewers was 5.7 percent when measured during Nick’s broadcast time of 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in those households served by cable and satellite. This market share figure refers to the fourth quarter of 1996. This year, Nickelodeon has extended its broadcast in some regions to 8 p.m.
The most recent entry in the children’s television market is Kinderkanal, which went on air in January. It was established by Germany’s two public stations, ARD and ZDF, and is backed by a yearly overall budget of about 100 million German Marks (US$59 million). Kinderkanal launched on cable, and in most of Germany’s 16 broadcast regions, the service uses the frequency already used by the culture channel ARTE, whose programming starts at 7 p.m. Kinderkanal broadcasts from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The launch created a transmission problem for Nickelodeon, since Kinderkanal ended up using the same channel that Nickelodeon had been using in many regions. Nickelodeon had to make room for its public competitor and move to a new cable channel. Positioned on a channel that had already developed an audience among kids, Kinderkanal found itself in a prewarmed nest.
(In Germany, each region has its own broadcast regulatory body, or Landesmedienanstalt, which decides which place channels get on the crowded cablenet.)
‘It certainly wasn’t a disadvantage for us to start on the former place of Nickelodeon,’ says Gudrun B. Nündel, head of communications for the Kinderkanal.
Public reaction to the Kinderkanal has been mixed. ARD and ZDF are relying on their 40 years of broadcast experience, hoping to win viewers with traditional shows that will find favor among adults as well as kids. Kinderkanal is airing such classics as Pippi Langstrumpf, Die Sendung mit der Maus, Augsburger Puppenkiste, Sesame Street and Pumuckl.
Some Germans are happy with the programming alternative, saying that the classics represent higher-quality programming, reflective of old world values. Others have criticized the Kinderkanal for mainly recycling old ARD and ZDF programming.
‘We want to make programming of a high quality that is educational as well as entertaining,’ says Nündel.
Kinderkanal, based in East German Erfurt, has not revealed its market share. However, some estimates peg it at as much as 10 percent of three- to 13-year-old viewers. In addition to the classic programming, Kinderkanal, which runs commercial-free, airs studio productions such as news, game shows and magazines.
The number two kids channel, RTL, is in second place despite the fact that it airs kids programming only on weekends (on Saturdays from 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Sundays from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.). Saturdays are taken up with Disney cartoons such as Aladdin and Timon & Pumbaa and Saban Entertainment’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
PRO 7 is out to defend its leadership position. The station has expanded its budget for animation, and kicks off the first half of this year with 10 new cartoon series, including Freakazoid and Pinky & The Brain. The Munich-based media company is placing increased emphasis on its in-house production efforts, following the 26-episode production of the classic Neverending Story, which was broadcast successfully last April. PRO 7 is currently co-producing Loggerheads, the adventures of two very stubborn Vikings. A further half-dozen cartoon productions are currently under way throughout Europe.
The station also broadcasts such classic cartoon hits as The Flintsones, The Simpsons, Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny. PRO 7 has also successfully presold its animated series Home to Rent, a story about five alien monsters living in a vacant house co-produced with Gaumont Multimedia, France 3 and Channel Four to the Fox Children’s Network.
Marie-Line Petrequin, head of the animation department at PRO 7, points out that this sale ‘was the first time in the history of our company that we sold one of our animated productions to an American major.’
Two other new children’s program blocks have entered the German TV market through the new digital television platform DF1, owned by the Kirch Group. They are Junior, for kids age three to six, and Clubhouse, targeted at viewers age six to 13. Only 30,000 viewers have signed on to the service.