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Disney Germany’s pick-up plot

Until now, Germany has lagged behind other European countries in that it hasn't had a Disney Channel of its own. With the launch this month of pay-TV platform Premiere World (the reworked successor to Premiere and DF1), subscribers to the Family...
October 1, 1999

Until now, Germany has lagged behind other European countries in that it hasn’t had a Disney Channel of its own. With the launch this month of pay-TV platform Premiere World (the reworked successor to Premiere and DF1), subscribers to the Family World bouquet can now watch, among other offerings, Disney Channel Germany. ‘We want to reach the whole family,’ says programming director Michael Kreissl. He also has to convince them it’s money well spent.

In terms of daily block breakdown, the channel will offer three and a half hours of preschool programming from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by nine to 10 hours for a general kids audience, and five to six hours of family entertainment. Teens are not targeted with a specific program block, although many shows in the Disney arsenal, including Microsoap and Crash Zone, are aimed at this demo.

Preschool fare includes New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Bear In The Big Blue House, The Smurfs and Rolie Polie Olie. Older character-driven classics like Goof Troop and Ducktales are mixed with recent ratings-winners such as Disney’s Pepper Ann to make up the afternoon toon slate. Also on the daytime schedule are live-action series Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.

At 5 p.m. comes interactive show live@five, which wraps around The Little Mermaid and Dinosaurs, ‘the two most popular Disney shows on free TV in Germany,’ says Kreissl. Both shows air on Super RTL, where The Little Mermaid has racked up 1.5 million viewers. Disney Germany will also run new series like Disney’s Hercules and Smart Guy, which are German TV first runs. Daily movie slot The Wonderful World of Disney is at 7 p.m, while among the series airing is Disney’s Honey I Shrunk The Kids. There’s also time left over in the weekday sked for some repeats.

Weekends follow the same programming format, except the preschool slot runs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and there is an additional movie slot Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m.

Kreissl cites border-crossing and compatibility with core Disney series as the elements that attracted him to blockbuster pick-ups Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Bear In The Big Blue House and Rugrats. ‘The quality of these programs transcends borders. Rugrats is a modern and relevant cartoon that fits perfectly with shows like Disney’s Recess or Disney’s Pepper Ann,’ he says. ‘Sabrina is a different girl trying to live a normal life, while her magical powers offer a very Disney-like feel to the story.’ Sabrina and Rugrats have aired on Pro Sieben, and Kinderkanal will begin broadcasting Bear In The Big Blue House in one year, after Disney’s pay-exclusive window.

The vast majority of Disney Germany’s programming is acquired, although the sked does feature some co-productions such as the live-action BBC co-pro Microsoap, as well as those that originated between the Disney Channels themselves. Says Kreissl: ‘We will also look into German co-productions if the opportunity arises. But they have to meet the Disney values.’

In terms of on-air style, ‘localizing is a major concern with us,’ says Kreissl, ‘and we have everything a local channel needs: local hosts, a local creative team, our own on-air department. We are being very German in our approach, in the way shows are wrapped. We don’t believe in selling prefabricated channels that look the same in every part of the world.’

Germany has an extremely crowded kids TV landscape. There are the free-TV channels Super RTL (commercial) and Kinderkanal (public). And on Premiere World, the Disney Channel also has to share space with K-Toon and Junior.

For more on the changing German TV scene, see ‘Kidcasters vie for eyeballs in the ‘shark’s basin’ that is the German market,’ page 20.

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