Bolstered by stellar financial results last year, German broadcasting giant ProSiebenSat.1 has set ambitious goals as it seeks to increase non-advertising revenue by expanding its pay TV and production activities.
One of the biggest buyers of U.S. product, the group, which operates four free-to-air channels, including flagship broadcasters ProSieben and Sat.1, pay TV outlets and Germany’s leading VOD platform, has also embraced innovative online avenues to test new shows.
U.S. import “Sons of Anarchy” became one of the first series to debut free online on the group’s MyVideo platform this year before its free TV premiere, which has yet to be set.
“We see MyVideo as a kind of a first online free TV channel,” says Christian Wegner, ProSiebenSat.1’s executive head of new media and diversification. “We experiment a lot with first airings. ‘Sons of Anarchy’ achieved 2.5 million views online — that’s a very, very good success.”
Starz’s sword-and-sandal skein “Spartacus” is premiered on MyVideo in March before its free TV debut on ProSieben in April.
U.S. shows launching on ProSiebenSat.1 channels this year include fellow FX series “Justified,” CBS’ “2 Broke Girls,” “Mike & Molly” and “Unforgettable” as well as Showtime’s “Homeland.”
Current ratings winners on ProSieben include “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Supernatural,” “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory.” In addition to popular local shows, Sat.1 continues to score with its Sunday night lineup of “NCIS,” “The Mentalist” and “Hawaii Five-0.”
ProSiebenSat.1 spokesman Julian Geist calls it “just about the most successful series lineup on German TV — and certainly the most successful in the crime genre.”
It’s success with licensed series notwithstanding, ProSiebenSat.1 has embraced a production strategy aimed at tapping international markets.
Production division Red Arrow Entertainment most recently took a majority stake in U.K. entertainment producer CPL, its first investment in Blighty’s strategically significant non-scripted market.
One of the U.K.’s leading independent TV production companies, CPL boasts a wide-ranging content output that includes Sky One’s “A League of Their Own” and ITV’s “Mr. & Mrs.”
The deal gives CPL exclusive first-look access to Red Arrow’s growing slate of formats. ProSiebenSat.1’s international sales arm, SevenOne Intl., will sell new formats and shows produced by CPL worldwide.
“As it has been since the start, Red Arrow’s strategy is to partner with the best talent in key production markets around the world,” says Red Arrow managing director Jan Frouman. “CPL has proven to be outstanding at producing hit shows of the highest quality. As for the U.K. — if you’re serious about global production and distribution, you’re there.”
CPL’s Danielle Lux says, “Access to the world market is key to this next phase in CPL’s growth; Red Arrow will take our new formats out into the world and we will bring the best of theirs into the U.K.”
The acquisition followed a number of recent additions to Red Arrow’s roster of international shingles, which includes Mikkel Bondesen’s Fuse Entertainment, producer of USA Network’s “Burn Notice” and AMC’s “The Killing,” and Santa Monica-based Kinetic Content, producer of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” for NBC and ABC’s “You Deserve It.”
The latest acquisition follows ProSiebenSat.1’s strong financial performance last year. The group increased revenue by 6% year-on-year to €2.76 billion ($3.68 billion) while net profit soared 12.4% to $412.6 million.
ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Thomas Ebeling describes 2011 as another record year for the company and says the group was well on its way to achieving its goal of increasing revenue by $1 billion from 2010 to 2015.
The group aims to generate almost half its revenues outside its traditional German TV advertising business by 2015.
To that end, the conglom is expanding its local pay TV offering as well as international sales operations.
In May, it’s launching pay outlet ProSieben Fun while revamping existing feevee Sat.1 Comedy, which will now be known as Sat.1 Emotions. Youth-skewed ProSieben Fun, which bows on telco giant’s Deutsche Telekom pay TV service, will feature hit shows and comedy formats, some as German broadcast premieres, as well as blockbuster movies, U.S. series and sports events.
Sat.1 Emotions will offer telenovelas, primetime series and Sat.1 movies, some of which will be German TV premieres. The group’s third pay TV channel, Kabel Eins Classics, will continue to focus on movies and series, from the past to the present. Kabel Eins Classics and Sat.1 Emotions are available on regional cablers Kabel Deutschland, Unitymedia and other providers.
Beyond Germany, worldwide distribution unit SevenOne Intl. is reaching out to Asia with an office in Hong Kong. The division has already sold numerous TV formats in Asia and is looking to increase business in the region, particularly in Australia.
English-speaking markets are becoming increasingly important for SevenOne as it continues to expand its English-language content.
“Already today, more than 50% of all the world’s TV households are located in Asia,” says SevenOne CEO Jens Richter. “This market offers tremendous longterm growth potential for us as a distribution company.”
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