Reaches ripe old age of 10 ahead of Nick and KI.KA

While RTL Television may be celebrating 25 years as Germany’s leading commercial network, its subsidiary Super RTL has reigned supreme among tyke viewers for more than a decade.

A 50-50 joint venture of RTL and Disney, Super RTL went on the air in 1995 and became the leading children’s web three years later. It remains the star of German kidvid despite increasingly tough players on the block.

With an average 24.5% market share among the key 3-to-13-year-old demo in the key primetime access slot, Super RTL continues to lead pubcaster rival Kinderkanal (KI.KA) and Viacom-owned Nick, which respectively garner 20.1% and 12.5%.

In recent years the web has moved from hit toon series to increasingly more live-action skeins, following a similar trend StateĀ­side.

Super RTL’s hottest shows include Disney Channel favorites like “Hannah Montana,” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and “Wizards of Waverly Place,” which fill its access timeslot.

While Disney content constitutes the web’s main access slot, Schmit says programming from independent and third-party providers remains a vital component to Super RTL’s success.

Super RTL enjoyed a 31.5% share among preschoolers (3- to 6-year-olds) in the first half of the year, just ahead of KI.KA, with 31.1%. Yet top tyke programming like “Bob the Builder,” “Rupert Bear” and “Thomas and Friends” has helped the web attract a loyal following.

Before Viacom launched its German children’s web in 2005, Nick programming featured significantly in Super RTL’s lineup, particularly “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which became a hit with kids and young adults.

Super RTL’s license for “SpongeBob” finally expired this summer, and Schmit admits losing the iconic series was painful, but that the success of the web’s current lineup has made up for the loss.

Super RTL, like other channels in Germany, has been hit by the ad downturn. Last year the service enjoyed its most successful to date, but Schmit predicts a two-digit drop in TV advertising for 2009.

He adds, however, that the web’s robust non-TV revenue streams are flowing strongly. About 25% of Super RTL’s total revenue stems from merchandizing and online activities, including tyke-aimed websites like Toggolino.de.

While Super RTL does not provide detailed financial information, the channel did generate x253.5 million ($373 million) just in gross ad sales.

Super RTL has bucked the trend when it comes to Internet subscription models. Its Toggolino Club educational portal, aimed at preschoolers, has more than 70,000 subscribers — parents who pay about $100 a year. The online club boasts specially created educational content using licensed characters like Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine to help tykes learn.

Similarly, the Toggo Clever Club for 7- to 9-year-olds has more than 60,000 subs.

In addition to TV and the Internet, Super RTL produces regular live events throughout the country, such as the Toggo Tour, and also reaches kids via its publishing operations.

Schmit describes it as a “360-degree” strategy, with TV the main platform yet with plenty of auxiliary support.

“We offer a high-flying 360-degree entertainment product to children. We will have a presence wherever our target group is,” he vows.

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