Territory Reports: Germany

Serials penetrate local ambivalence

BERLIN — While Germany’s established broadcasters have long played its safe with a tried-and-true mix of hit series and reliable entertainment formats, they are now taking a page from

second-tier webs and becoming more adventurous with scripted content.

Dirk Schweitzer, RTL Television’s head of sales and acquisitions, says German auds still have a problem with serials, but nevertheless, RTL is bowing “Prison Break” Thursday nights at 10:15 starting June 21. Taking a page from youth-oriented affiliate RTL 2, RTL will air the show — its first primetime serial — in back-to-back episodes, “so that viewers can really get into the exciting story.”

Since 2003, RTL 2 has aired Fox’s hit series “24” in one- to two-month periods by scheduling double or triple back-to-back episodes several times a week. RTL 2 will also bow the second season of Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica” at the end of the year (a move that forced Universal Pictures Germany to postpone the release of the series’ DVD from January to May).

On ProSieben, “Jericho” will air as part of the station’s “Mystery Monday” this summer. Still, serialized fare isn’t always welcomed with open arms by RTL and ProSieben — in contrast to procedurals, which remain more palatable to Teutonic tastes. Such is the fuss that RTL passed on HBO’s “Rome,” which RTL 2 will now premiere this summer.

Largely eschewing U.S. content, pubcaster ARD remains the ratings leader with its hit Tuesday-night series “Um Himmels Willen,” about a feisty young nun who constantly defends her small-town convent from an unscrupulous local mayor, and “In aller Freundschaft,” a medical skein set in a Leipzig hospital.

RTL remains close behind in the ratings with procedurals like the hugely successful U.S. shows “House,” “CSI” and “CSI: Miami.” “House” has even on occasion surpassed the ARD mainstays on Tuesdays, attracting anywhere from 5 million to 6.22 million viewers and market shares of up to 20.5%.

On the RTL-owned web Vox, “CSI: NY” continues to top the charts, and Vox topper Frank Hoffmann says the web will continue to showcase “the best crime entertainment on primetime,” including new shows such as “Close to Home” and “The Closer.”

Also premiering on ProSieben is CBS’ “Cold Case,” which should help address the seemingly limitless appetite among German viewers for crime dramas, as well as the less-traditional Showtime series “Weeds.”

Digital expansion on German cable and pay platforms continues to provide greater opportunities for international content providers. In September, pay TV broadcaster Premiere is launching Premiere Sky, which will will offer subscribers 20 channels, and is reportedly in negotiations with RTL and ProSiebenSat 1 to carry their new pay TV outlets.

ProSiebenSat 1’s video-on-demand portal Maxdome, meanwhile, has been signing up plenty of content providers to bolster its growing catalog, including CBS Paramount Intl., Buena Vista Intl. Television, Sony Pictures Television Intl. and Turner Broadcasting.

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