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‘Big Brother’ changes Swiss television reality

Private web sees auds grow with local 'Millionaire,' 'Brother'

ZURICH — Game and reality formats finally seem to be forcing change in the Swiss television market.

The launch 18 months ago of TV3, Switzerland’s first full-service private web, initially had little impact on the public broadcasting establishment. But now pubcaster SF DRS (which spans SF1 and SF2) is taking the newcomer more seriously.

Thanks to local versions of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and, more importantly, “Big Brother,” TV3’s audience share consistently reaches 10% in primetime.

“We’d been hoping for success,” TV3 CEO Jurg Wildberger says, “but we are overwhelmed by the scale of it.”

Until now, SF DRS’ only challenge had been the broadcast signals that carry over from neighboring Germany.

“We are not aiming a maximal, but a optimal market share,” notes SF DRS program director Peter Schellenberg, who adds he will not be following suit with reality shows on his channels.

But the pubcaster is making some adjustments. After 10 years of purchasing outside entertainment programs, SF DRS is moving back into local production. A series of 10 telepics in the Swiss dialect have been commissioned.

And there’s a new challenge looming for the public web: German media mogul Leo Kirch is rumored to be negotiating the Swiss rights to the 2002 soccer world championship with TV3. Sports programming in the territory had been exclusive to SF2, and if TV3 grabs the soccer prize, the private web could be looking at an even bigger ratings hike.

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