Germany’s young commercial TV industry is emerging as one of the world’s more competitive markets.
With over 30 channels free of charge, the available advertising revenue in the country is being tightly squeezed, and analysts are already predicting a shakeout which would lay to waste a number of the country’s broadcast services. About 75% of Germany’s gross advertising sales are claimed by the three biggest commercial stations – RTL, Pro7 and Sat1. With so many smaller players chasing one quarter of the available revenues, the push is on to find a profitable niche.
Having expanded its program offerings beyond a schedule filled predominantly with American series and movies this summer, KABEL 1 is delving into documentary and informational programming in order to differentiate itself from its direct competitors, vox and RTL 2. The station, which began broadcasting via satellite two years ago, gained a market share of 3.9% in the first half of 1997, just short of its 4% goal. Managing director Ludwig Bauer has publicly declared his intent for KABEL 1 to become ‘the leading second generation broadcasting station’ in the country.
KABEL 1 spokesperson Hans Fink says the station’s new emphasis on information is hoped to push KABEL 1′s demographic up from 30-and-under to 20-49.
In addition to its 8 p.m. weeknight news magazine, this fall, KABEL 1 is adding three hours of weekly documentary programming. An hour in Thursday primetime is reserved for one-off projects commissioned and fully-owned by KABEL 1. Fink says the station pays about DM2.5 million an hour for ‘very people-oriented’ global stories, and 16 of them are scheduled for this year. Most of the one-hour specials have been produced by German independents, but Fink says at least one of the hours – a feature on ‘skywalkers’, Native Indians who are prized in the construction business for their fearlessness 30 stories up – was produced with an American company.
KABEL 1 also runs two hours of documentary programming on Saturdays, and these hours are more likely to be filled with acquired series. Much of KABEL 1′s acquisitions thus far have come from the BBC, but Fink says the station is currently looking to source product from other suppliers.
‘We are looking to produce, but we’re very open to buying ready-made documentaries if they fit,’ says Fink.
This fall, KABEL 1 begins running Passport, a combination game show/travel and adventure series. Also new to the schedule are three new magazines: K1 Das Magazine, K1 Das Interview and K1 Die Reportage.
While Das Magazine (a half-hour weekly current-events magazine) and Das Interview (a 45-minute weekly program featuring an in-depth interview with a single guest) will be produced by K1, the station will be looking to outside producers for K1 Die Reportage, a weekly half-hour show devoted exclusively to in-depth reporting on a single subject or event.
‘The difference between Die Reportage and the Thursday night slot is that Die Reportage could be a more local story,’ says Fink. ‘Thursday nights are strictly for international stories.’
In order to strengthen the K1 brand, the station recently launched a website (www.kabel1.de), and has ventured into publishing. Working with German publishing company Heyne-Verlag, the station released the KABEL 1 Entertainment Almanac, which it intends to update on a yearly basis.