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Sales engine runs the show

“Our strategy is to build a machine that can exploit in Germany all rights that one can think of,” says Tele-Munchen sales chief and managing director Philip von Alvensleben. “And that means, from TV to music to computer games to video. It’s like getting all the keys on a piano keyboard.”

That makes the library TMG’s most important division, but everything else serves to acquire or move product as well, from the theatrical and video distribberies to the TV stations.

“Second most important are our access channels RTL2 and TM3,” says von Alvensleben. “RTL2 is our biggest success so far. Concorde is very successful and is important for us to gain theatrical programming. Video, merchandising, drama, infotainment and entertainment production. The next natural step would be music.”

“After Beta/Taurus (controlled by Kloiber’s archrival Leo Kirch),” he adds, “I think we probably have the best-placed rights system in Germany. We offer a kind of one-stop system; we provide all aspects of rights exploitation.”

The newest addition to the TM machine is CTM Merchandising, a subsib of its TV-show production company Prisma. “For the past 18 months, we’ve been looking for things with merchandising potential in them,” says von Alvensleben.

“With shows and entertainment, the network provides the finance and has broadcast rights but, unlike with drama, a percentage of the ancilliary rights also fall back on TM. So we get the merchandising and things like CD-ROM versions.”

The idea behind Prisma is to create rights that can be exploited in the new media fields. Prisma handles merchandising, CD-ROM and game, talk and variety shows.

“Everything is mixed in Prisma because they’re areas TM hasn’t been involved in much yet,” says von Alvensleben. The first Prisma show is “Hypno,” already running successfully on commercial station Pro 7. Prisma also is designing pilots for three game shows.

In addition, Prisma and TM Produktion are co-financing “Little Witches,” an animated kids series produced by France’s Millesime, and the children’s animal series “Kratt’s Creatures,” produced by Canada’s Atlantis.

Prisma is currently developing four CD-ROMs to be ready by Christmas: picture books with an animated host teaching young users about the environment and – incidentally – about computers.

“If the CD-ROMs work,” says von Alvensleben, “we can use the character featured in them to sell a TV show to the networks, and keep the rights to the character. The advantage of children’s programming is that it sells internationally.”

Von Alvensleben says the most exciting part is the addition of the CTM arm for merchandising, an area many observers still see as underdeveloped in Germany.

“The retail market is still very open for more merchandising products,” says Hans Ulrich Stoef, managing director, business affairs, of the three-month-old subsid. “Germany as a market isn’t even 50% saturated. When I walk through a big department store, I don’t see nearly enough merchandising.

“The important thing now is presentation and overall concept. In this area, the Germans still have a lot to learn from the Americans.”

Stoef and co-managing director Ralf Zimmermann (marketing and creative services) were lured away from Germany’s second largest merchandiser, EM Entertainment. Or, in their version, they lured TM to them.

“We’d been interested in founding our own company for some time,” says Stoef. “And we knew TM was looking around. So we made a deal with them.”

CTM’s most important rights: *The old and new “Flipper” series, including Samuel Goldwyn’s 1996 feature film.

* The hit kid series “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.” Says Stoef: “We’re really proud we got this, as a lot of people in Germany were competing for it for a long time.”

* The SAT 1 version of Goldwyn’s “American Gladiators” franchise.

* ” Little Witches,” including music rights.

* ” Kratt’s Creatures” (German version), including food licensing.

With a staff of 12, CTM offers “merchandising based on concepts,” says Stoef. “We have our own inhouse creative studio and we can offer both licensers and licensees complete concepts. They can buy a license from us and get a complete, functioning concept from beginning to end with not only marketing ideas, but new product ideas as well.”

“We limit the number of licenses we rep,” Stoef continues, “so a licenser can be sure each product is getting the attention it needs. The whole company stands behind each project.”

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