The toddler-skewing nature of Teletubbies makes the preschool phenom a good fit for ARD/ZDF Kinderkanal, which placed the recent acquisition ahead of Sesame Street in its preschool block starting at 8 a.m. Ninety episodes were obtained, all of which will be tailored to the German market by re-shooting the live-action segments in local settings, says Sebastian Debertin, head of acquisitions and co-production at Kinderkanal. The channel is currently considering an option to pick up an additional 170 episodes of the program, which Debertin believes ‘fits perfectly into the German landscape.’
The channel, which programs to young kids from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day, concludes its children’s programming with a block called ‘Sandman’ in the early afternoon to evening-a slot for which it recently re-purchased Country Mouse City Mouse from Cinar. ‘Last year, the first 26 episodes were very successful, so we decided to acquire an additional 26,’ notes Debertin. ‘We’d like to have this as a longer-running property at Kinderkanal,’ he says, adding that such flagship shows are brand-builders for the block.
According to Debertin, the channel has a rough time competing price-wise with other networks for properties such as Teletubbies, as it is publicly funded and cannot match the fees paid by commercial networks. As a result, acquisitions make up only 30% of the channel’s schedule, the bulk of which is comprised of co-productions involving Kinderkanal’s founding networks, ARD, the number one network in Germany, and ZDF, which ranks number two.
Kinderkanal, as a joint venture between the two German nets, is occasionally able to offer distributors like the BBC’s Theresa Plummer-Andrews (who made the Teletubbies deal with Debertin), possible ‘back end’ deals with ARD and ZDF after the episodes have run on Kinderkanal. The channel also recently signed a shared-window deal with ZDF for Jim Henson Television’s Bear in the Big Blue House, the terms of which give Kinderkanal a three-year first-window opportunity to air the show, before it is shared by both broadcasters. But even with the future potential for higher fees that these deals bring, acquisitions are tough for Kinderkanal to make as the channel’s licensing fees are only one-quarter of what the commercial networks pay, says Debertin. ‘It sometimes takes a long time to convince companies like EVA and HIT to agree on our figures, they’re so small,’ he says.
Still, the broadcaster has achieved a number two rating among young children in its short 23 months of existence.
Debertin is currently looking for strong older kids-targeted sitcoms, like Student Bodies, a live-action/animation series produced by Montreal’s Telescene Film Group that was recently renewed on Kinderkanal. He says the tween audience in Germany is particularly hard to reach because they’ve often already moved on to grown-up fare.