German platform set to bow this year

BERLIN Germany is proving fertile soil for video-on-demand, as pubcaster giants ARD and ZDF push forward with plans for their own service, dubbed Germany’s Gold.

The venture is subject to approval by the local cartel office, but while it blocked a similar joint VOD platform by commercial giants RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 last year, ARD and ZDF may have a better chance of getting their service rubberstamped.

The pubcasters have corralled 17 companies, including pubcaster-owned shingles as well as privately-owned production and distribution outfits, to participate in Germany’s Gold, among them Jan Mojto’s Beta Film, Bavaria Fernsehproduktion, Brainpool, MME Moviement, Schmidtz Katze Filmkollektiv, Ziegler Film, Telepool, ZDF Enterprises, Studio Hamburg and TV 60.

The company has an office in Berlin and will be headed by general managers Antoine Schmidt-Roy, head of online media at Studio Hamburg’s licensing division, Studio Hamburg Distribution & Marketing, and veteran TV exec Jochen Kroehne. Studio Hamburg is a 100% subsidiary of ARD affiliate NDR.

The VOD platform, whose official name has yet to be unveiled, will draw on 60 years of German television, including TV movies, documentaries, series, children’s and youth programs, and entertainment shows, as well as German and international features.

The portal will be financed through per-view fees as well as subscriptions and advertising.

The venture faces a crowded field in Germany. Gallic media conglom Vivendi is rolling out its own VOD service in Germany this year in a major move that could see a rapid expansion across Europe.

With 45,000 titles and nearly 800,000 users, ProSiebenSat.1′s Maxdome is Germany’s leading VOD platform.

A number of other big players are also carving up the market, including Amazon-owned Lovefilm, Deutsche Telekom, iTunes and cable giant Kabel Deutschland.

While Netflix has launched in the U.K. and Ireland, it has yet to reach continental Europe.

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