SAT 1, RTL tout autumn skeds

BERLIN — TV fall schedules are being trotted out by Germany’s webs thick and fast against the background of the IFA (Consumer Electronics Exhibition). Germany’s two leading private webs, RTL and SAT 1, did their dog-and-pony shows Aug. 26 for the legions of press the event attracts.

While pubcasters will deal with news and information, Germany’s private webs are going with entertainment programming, much of it produced in-house.

Success, American style

RTL, German TV’s market leader, is sticking to its American-style success formula. Topper Helmut Thoma told an SRO crowd that hour series, sitcoms and telefilms will be the focal point of the 1994 program lineup. Some popular American fare like “Cheers” has been picked up, but RTL is still trying to develop its own versions of U.S. hits.

Formats of “Married … With Children” and “Who’s the Boss?” bombed this season, as did “Berlin Break,” a co-production with Columbia Pictures Television.

Thoma says the web has learned from its mistakes. “We need American know-how, but not German concepts from Americans.”

In addition to series and sitcoms, RTL will experiment with other U.S. formats. A “Nightline”-type show is in development, as is a version of “Saturday Night Live.” Web will continue with the lukewarm-rated “Gottschalk,” its version of “The Tonight Show.”

Thoma said the web has invested more than $ 60 million this year in in-house production.

Perhaps because it was, after all, an electronics show, RTL’s confab surprise was trotting out a new TV whose design was commissioned by the web “to help viewers watch the morning show more easily.” Set had a remote control device with a small built-in screen so that viewers could carry the thing around the house, in much the same way as a cordless phone. Web spokesman Peter Hoenisch said Sony was “interested” in the device.

Meanwhile, SAT 1’s overly long vidclip presentation left journalists reeling, feeling as if they had already lived the entire fall schedule.

Web’s president Jurgen Doetz promised a concerted effort to boost SAT 1 out of its fourth-place slot in terms of market share. In programming terms, that means top-notch feature films, soccer and more in-house production.

Local interest

Entertainment program chief Knut Fockler has salted 18 in-house series and telefilms to air in the next 18 months, indicating that the web is making a serious financial commitment to locally produced fare.

SAT 1 plays its financial cards close to the chest, but did make some figures public. Doetz said ad revenues rounded out at 1.02 billion marks in 1992 ($ 607 million), an increase of $ 142 million from the previous year. Despite the massive losses the web took on buying soccer rights, Doetz said SAT 1 still showed a $ 12 million profit last year.

Through ISPR, the sport rights agency owned by Kirch and Springer (SAT 1’s main shareholders), National Basketball Assn. rights have been acquired for an undisclosed figure and will bow on the web in the fall. DSF, a Kirch Springer sport web, will also air the games.