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Forging a new reality in Germany

'Adventure' formats the latest buzz word

BERLIN — When is a reality show not a reality show? When it’s an adventure show.

“Big Brother”-style formats have become taboo in Germany after auds overdosed on the fare and abandoned the shows in droves.

In fact, the word “reality” is rarely spoken aloud by TV execs — the label could easily cause a program’s untimely demise. Hence the new tag.

Exotic potential

Fred Kogel, deputy chief and head of entertainment at Kirch Media, parent company of ProSiebenSat.1 Media, tells Variety there’s still potential in reality-type programs, especially shows with exotic locales as opposed to living-room settings inside a a plain-wrap house.

Adventure formats are playing a big role at the group’s format factory, Kirch Media Entertainment, which is churning out adventure programs, quiz shows and other skeins featuring real people for Kirch broadcasters as well as their commercial and pubcaster rivals.

“We are focusing on programming for German TV, and if its successful here we’ll try to sell it internationally,” adds Kogel.

The latest adventure show offering is “Desert Forges,” which preemed in July. Call it a Teutonic take on “Battle of the Network Stars”: groups of TV celebrities are pitted against each other in a variety of contests, forced to run obstacle courses and play tug-of-war in the sweltering Jordanian desert.

The show airs on commercial web ProSieben and is a follow-up to the broadcaster’s “Fort Boyard,” which premiered last summer with a similar setup, but that show was shot in an old French fort on the Atlantic coast.

Auds unsure

Unlike “Boyard,” however, “Desert Forges” has failed to make an impact on audiences, with only 1.2 million viewers tuning in for the first episode.

Despite surveys that indicate German viewers are hungry for quality documentaries and films, broadcasters continue their pursuit of cheap programming, such as the concept of interactive TV.

Weblet TM3, which is renaming itself 9 Live, is trying to capture a niche audience with its new round-the-clock interactive programming.

With a slew of call-in gameshows and talk programs, the web is looking to bypass advertisers and make viewers foot the bill with dial-up charges of about 1 mark (45¢) per call.

The broadcaster’s new late-night, six-hour erotic show, “La Notte — Sexy Night,” which airs every evening, offers erotic entertainment, dating opportunities, live guests and “sexy” games and quizzes.

TM3 programmers want to fill the schedule with similar interactive fare, including a morning program, an amateur talent show and travel skeins, all of which ask viewers to call up, occasionally promising a cash jackpot of up to 1 million deutschmarks for correct answers to questions.

This “transaction TV” strategy hasn’t taken off for the mini-web’s owners, ProSiebenSat.1 and shopping network HOT.

Gimmick at a loss

The channel has seen the 1% market share it had at the beginning of the year, when it was still airing old U.S. reruns and movies, dwindle to around 0.3%.

Critics say the gimmick will continue to keep viewers as well as advertisers away. In June, the channel reportedly garnered about $1 million from dial-up revenue.

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