Gay channel overcomes ad jitters

Germany's Timm now airing 24 hours

BERLIN — After getting off to a modest start in November, Germany’s first gay channel, Timm, is blossoming.

Initially broadcasting only six hours a night and a bit longer on weekends, the digital web last month went 24 hours with such gay-oriented fare as “Tales of the City,” “Queer as Folk,” “Noah’s Arc,” “The L Word” and the inhouse- produced “Ruby,” the only male fashion magazine on German TV.

Transmitted digitally nationwide via cable, satellite and Internet, the free TV outlet is courting advertisers with what founder and managing director Frank Lukas says are attractive and high-earning target viewers with plenty of spare cash.

“The industry is well aware that gay men generally have more disposable income due to their familial situations. The quality of our target audience is a real asset in these times,” Lukas says.

Indeed, Timm has already seduced such big players as BMW Mini, Ford and Nivea.

It wasn’t always easy, though. “We had to fight from the beginning against fears and reservations with regards to our target audience.

“Many anticipated obscene or hardcore content. Others couldn’t even imagine what the channel could look like. That quickly changed following our launch. Advertisers now understand our concept. We’re abstaining from telephone hotlines, ringtone ads and silly quiz shows with scantily clad hosts.”

That’s something new on German TV and has been well received by both viewers and advertisers, says Lukas.

In addition to cable and satellite, the channel is also online via European Internet TV portal Zattoo, where it has attracted a huge following in its short time on air.

Timm has received massive support from Germany’s gay community, and Lukas hopes to maintain that connection with its continued participation in major gay cultural events, such as the Berlinale’s Teddy Awards for gay pics and this month’s touring Verzaubert Intl. Queer Film Festival — events that Lukas says “clearly separate us from the other channels.”

“We’re gay and we want to reach gay men with our channel. … The main thing we do is television, with a very clear and well-defined focus on this exciting target group. We don’t place every broadcast minute under profit pressure and we don’t copy other formats just to sink in the programming pudding of mainstream German TV.”

Launching Timm amid a global financial crisis may not have been the most optimal start, but Lukas sees opportunity in hard times.

“It was more difficult to get the financing together, but there are many opportunities in the crisis. Timm’s cost structure is set up well for these times. It’s not such a bad starting point for a new broadcaster.”

Timm’s shareholders include Lukas’ Berlin-based production shingle South & Browse, Hanover publisher Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack and Berlin investment bank IBB.

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