Despite recent financial uncertainty in the German kids production market, the programming side of the equation sees the country’s top kidnets remaining strong and competitive. Super RTL continues to lead the pack, with ARD/ZDF’s KI.KA–which celebrated its fifth anniversary in January–just marginally behind by 2.1% in total audience share for the month of March. Looking to eliminate this slight lag, KI.KA is planning to expand its broadcast day by two hours next year.
The net currently programs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with ARTE (a French/German cultural channel) kicking in after that, but the German broadcast regulators have granted KI.KA permission to air every day until 9 p.m. in a trial period from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2004.
The channel’s head of programming Sebastian Debertin says that while KI.KA works hard to cater its lineup to as wide an age range as possible, he will need to pick up a lot of older-skewing fare to fill the longer day. Debertin is looking for live-action comedy or live-action/animated hybrids along the lines of Student Bodies (Sony Wonder/Sunbow), as well as edgier, fast-paced animation; pitchers should note that properties with many episodes in the can best suit KI.KA’s stripped format.
So, KI.KA has more time and needs more programming…but what it doesn’t have, says Debertin, is more money. ‘Public television funding is fixed in Germany,’ he explains, so each household pays a yearly contribution of roughly US$14, and all the public stations get a share. This household amount does increase every five years, but since the next hike is set for 2005, Debertin is looking at other ways to increase his programming budget now.
Building brand loyalty in areas other than TV is his primary focus. KI.KA has appointed BSM (Bavaria Sonore Munich) as its merchandising agent to develop that area of business, with BSM opening offices right in the KI.KA building in Erfurt. The channel has also initiated partnerships with Universal Germany for music and Droemer Weltbild, the country’s third-largest publisher, for books.