German webs in IFA spotlight

BERLIN — German webs are taking advantage of the media spotlight on the Intl. Consumer Electronics and Media Fair (IFA) in Berlin, which runs through Sunday, to announce their fall lineups and financial results.

Helmut Thoma, general manager at No. 1 commercial network RTL, told reporters Saturday that RTL plans to spend 1.1 billion marks ($615 million) on inhouse production in the coming year. RTL’s fall lineup includes new action series such as “The Fire Angels” and “Medicopter 117” and the drama series “Behind Bars — The Women’s Prison.”

Thoma seemed unconcerned that pubcaster ARD has overtaken RTL in the ratings in recent weeks. ARD benefited from broadcasting sporting events such as the Tour de France. Also, RTL’s target audience (ages 14-49) spends less time watching television in the summer, Thoma explained.

In the future, the RTL topper said, the channel will air more repeats during the summer months, reserving its stronger pics and series for other parts of the year. “We can’t afford to offer original programming all the time,” Thoma said.

Weblet Kabel 1, a member of the ProSieben Group, announced Saturday that its ad revenues are on the rise. The channel took in $113 million in 1996, while registering losses of $12 million. Kabel 1 rep Hans Fink anticipates minimal losses this year, and expects the weblet to hit breakeven in 1998. Kabel 1’s programming focus is on classic U.S. series and repeats from ProSieben, but the station will also produce its own news and information programs this season.

Peter Heimes, managing director of weblet SuperRTL, told reporters Monday that the channel will build on its already strong ratings among the 3-13-year-old age group, and expects to attract more parents during primetime with a new lineup of family series. SuperRTL, a joint venture of Disney and Bertelsmann unit CLT-Ufa, will air programs produced by its shareholders, including “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and a series based on “The Adventures of the Swiss Family Robinson.”

David Hulbert, senior VP at Walt Disney Television Intl., dismissed rumors that SuperRTL will soon be drawn into a holding structure with RTL. “Disney is committed to SuperRTL as a successful, viable, independent station,” said Hulbert. Heimes added that SuperRTL shareholders had demonstrated their confidence in the weblet by upping its programming budget for the coming season.

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