BERLIN — Although faced with increasing competition in the Teutonic tyke TV market, Claude Schmit has steered Super RTL to ever greater heights since taking the helm at the RTL and Disney-owned children’s channel in 1999.A former marketing and sales exec at Luxembourg steel company Trade Arbed and later a TV exec at RTL Group precursor CLT, Schmit is overseeing Super RTL’s shift from kids’ outlet to family broadcaster while fending off the latest incursion into the children’s TV market by Viacom’s Nickelodeon. Last year, Viacom relaunched Nick in Germany after a failed run between 1995 and 1998, when it lost out due to intense competition from Super RTL and tyke pubcaster Kinderkanal. This time, however, Nick came equipped with the hugely popular “SpongeBob SquarePants,” a show that had already helped Super RTL expand its reach beyond kids by becoming a cult favorite among young adults. Nickelodeon is no longer delivering fresh product to Super RTL, but the broadcaster retains rights to older episodes of “SpongeBob” through 2012, so the popular toon is on both stations. “SpongeBob” isn’t Super RTL’s only show that appeals to kid and adult tastes, says Schmit. Licensed fare and inhouse productions aimed at kids and their parents include Disney classic “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” with Kirk Douglas and James Mason; “Upps! Die Pannenshow,” a remake of Disney/ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” that remains one of the web’s highest rated shows; and old favorites “Columbo” and “Quincy,” which still attract a loyal following. Schmit’s strategy has paid off. Since he became managing director, Super RTL’s market share among 3- to 13-year-olds has risen from around 20% to more than 30% in 2005, making it the dominant force in the children’s TV market. Super RTL also leads rival webs among parents and kids, with a 5.5% share in the late-afternoon and primetime hours. “We are making it possible for parents to sit down with their children and watch programming that they can enjoy together,” says Schmit. Among RTL Group’s four main channels, Super RTL has become the fastest-growing web after Vox, which has benefited dramatically from the “CSI” franchise and other popular U.S. shows.
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