Pair peddle their Tandem across TV’s borders

Feature Players: Rola Bauer and Tim Halkin

BERLIN — As North American toppers of a German company selling TV content to the world, Rola Bauer and her Tandem Communications partner Tim Halkin have always looked beyond borders.

Yet even though Munich-based Tandem produces in English for the international market, it also has strong relationships with all of Germany’s broadcasters.

It’s a nifty balancing act that few can pull off.

Currently riding high on the success of last year’s fantasy hit “Ring of the Nibelungs” (aka “Curse of the Ring”), Tandem is partnering with the Sanitsky Co. and Ludlum Entertainment on an adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s spy thriller “The Hades Factor” for CBS. Project will shoot in Berlin later this year.

It’s nine years since the then Rola Zayed, the one-time prexy of Alliance Intl. in Paris moved to Munich as exec VP of international fiction at commercial web ProSieben and ended up marrying network exec Ludwig Bauer.

Eager to pursue her interest in production, the native of Ottawa, Canada, left the net in 1999 to establish Tandem with Halkin, who was ProSieben’s senior VP of international fiction.

The independence also allowed Bauer to raise her two children. “I couldn’t have done it without Tim,” she says.

As co-managing director, Halkin, a New Yorker, oversees marketing and corporate affairs.

Halkin moved to Munich in 1983 to further his university studies and later joined Disney, helping to set up Buena Vista Home Entertainment Germany in 1990 and becoming marketing manager at the company. Six years later he moved to ProSieben — and met Bauer.

Halkin says it was Bauer’s “energy, drive and intelligence” that encouraged him to “take the plunge.”

“Rola and Tandem may not have been the reason that I crossed the Great Pond, but it’s sure the reason why I’m staying,” he adds.

Bauer says it was the experience of working as a seller at Alliance and as a buyer for ProSieben that gave her the insight to produce internationally attractive fare — fiction and nonfiction event programming — for primetime aimed at the 14-to-49 demo.

“We know the people; we know what they are looking for. Broadcasters aren’t buying big packages anymore. Today they are looking for event programming,” she says.

Because the company focuses on international fare, usually with U.S. partners, it has little direct competition from other German companies.

“We’re a specialized boutique in Germany,” Bauer says. “There aren’t many other companies here trying to produce for the entire world. We produce programming that is as viable in the U.S. as it is in Germany and Japan.”

Tandem recently inked an international distribution deal with ProSiebenSat 1’s sales division SevenOne Intl., insuring increased marketing and a greater global reach.

“There’s really nothing comparable out there,” says SevenOne topper Jens Richter. “Rola and Tim have a very modern approach and are doing an outstanding job. It’s not just producing in English — which you have to do if you’re looking for U.S. partners — it’s also having a recognizable cast, and that’s something Rola always gets.”

Tandem embraced action, adventure, sci-fi and CGI-enhanced documentaries, or, in the case of “Dragons’ World — A Fantasy Made Real,” faux documentaries.

Co-produced with Discovery Communications for Animal Planet, “Dragons’ World” achieved a 14.5% market share in German web Sat 1’s key demo last year, attracting 2 million viewers.

Project followed Tandem’s local distribution of Discovery’s “When Dinosaurs Roamed,” “Before We Ruled the Earth” and “James Cameron’s Expedition Bismarck,” all of which aired in primetime on RTL.

Tandem partnered with Phillip Roth’s UFO on Dean Cain starrer “Post Impact,” also a primetime hit on RTL, where it garnered a 26% market share in its target demo last year. Pic aired on the Sci Fi Channel in the U.S.

The $24 million “Nibelungs,” a two-part mini (which also is being flogged as a feature), has sold in 72 countries, including the U.K., France, Spain and Japan, with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment handling international DVD and video rights.

In Germany, pic premiered on Sat 1, attracting nearly 8 million viewers with a market share of 30% in its key demo, making it the highest-rated movie on German TV movie last year.

Bauer partially attributes Tandem’s success to her and Halkin’s North American sensibilities.

“We grew up in North America, and one advantage is going for North American pacing in our productions. A certain pacing with the right material can transcend the boundaries.”

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