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Super RTL weathers the German economic storm

The German market squeeze might be gearing up to claim a casualty on the broadcast side of the equation in coming months, but it won't be Super RTL if program director Susanne Schosser has anything to say about it. The economic state of the German TV market is far worse than anyone realizes, according to Schosser, and the local media has begun to wonder whether the territory has one children's channel too many. It's a reasonable question even in easy times, considering that there are 10 nets catering to German kids.
October 1, 2002

The German market squeeze might be gearing up to claim a casualty on the broadcast side of the equation in coming months, but it won’t be Super RTL if program director Susanne Schosser has anything to say about it. The economic state of the German TV market is far worse than anyone realizes, according to Schosser, and the local media has begun to wonder whether the territory has one children’s channel too many. It’s a reasonable question even in easy times, considering that there are 10 nets catering to German kids.

Airing roughly 80 hours of kids programming per week and netting an average 20% market share with its target demo of three- to 13-year-olds, Super RTL isn’t likely to be the channel that gets bumped off, but even so, Schosser must work hard to maintain its share.

Part of her strategy involves a shift away from co-production since that financing model is more difficult now that viable partners have become scarcer and scarcer. Instead, Schosser is concentrating her time and resources on sussing out acquisition opportunities, with a focus on edgy and proven animation for kids six to nine.

Nick’s SpongeBob SquarePants offers a good example of Super RTL’s success with this type of pick-up, having garnered a 38% market share with kids three to five and 40% with boys six to nine since it started airing in August.

But there isn’t a huge amount of room in the channel’s sked for new acquisitions, given the number of long-running shows faring well in prime real estate (40 SpongeBob eps in a 7:50 p.m. weekday slot; and 65 Angela Anaconda episodes in the 7:20 p.m. weekday slot).

Schosser says that a producer’s ability to package German ancillary rights with the TV license is a make-or-break deal component right now, explaining that capitalizing on all possible revenue streams (web, events, merchandising, etc.) – which is really only possible if Super RTL owns all German rights outright – is crucial to recouping lost ad dollars.

This need for total ownership has also triggered an in-house production increase. Super RTL’s kids slate currently includes magazine series Toggo TV, quiz show Q-Boot and game show Super Toy Club. Having absolute control over these properties means the channel can easily arrange advertising tie-ins and integrate its branding elements into the fiber of the programming.

It’s essential that Super RTL start implementing economical strategies now since Schosser says her US$50-million operating budget will likely be lowered in 2003. But the net is faring better than some of its competitors, due mainly to its ability to nab the rights to hot international shows like Angela, SpongeBob and Mr. Bean early and then come up with innovative ways to introduce the properties to the German kids audience. Last year, for instance, Angela hit the market via a huge web campaign before getting any on-air play. The show is now netting an average 43% share of the six to nine set.

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