With Marks And Airtime To Burn, German Nets Stay Cose To Home

The established German networks are clearly devoting more airtime and money to homegrown fare, but acquired programming, particularly American product, still drives large sections of Europe’s largest TV market.

A look at 1994’s top 100 programs shows auds here like soccer and their evening newscasts above all else. It’s the big matches and high-profile news days that bring in 15 to 20 million viewers.

Aside from that special category, 10 million viewers are considered a champion’s benchmark in this market. Even 5 million can be a high rating within a narrower target audience.

Germans remain very attached to detective series. “Columbo” is still a favorite here and auds tuned in frequently last year to other cloak-and-dagger formats.

But all the networks continue to vie for viewers by relying on the power of American movies. RTL, the country’s top-rated net in 1994, for instance, scored big with “Kindergarten Cop” (12.3 million viewers/35% share) as well as “Hook.”

RTL rep Richard Mahkorn confirmed to Variety that foreign programming has dropped off slightly as the web and its rivals expand their budgets for German production.

RTL has had two gameshow winners, Endemol’s “Dream Wedding” and “100,000 DM Show,” and recently purchased the “Jeopardy” format. Though RTL decided last year to yank “Fly with RTL,” a travel program broadcast from an airplane, it still favors genres which elicit laughs from basic human shortcomings and preposterous situations.

After shying away from gameshow formats, pubcaster ZDF is now looking to relaunch them with a youth skew. Its “Wanna Bet?” made six appearances in the top 25 programs of 1994, weaving its way around big sports events.

ZDF’s head of program planning, Markus Schechter, says the network remains interested in the 90-100 minute internationally formatted movies and miniseries aimed at large family audiences on the weekend.

Pro-7, the third-rated commercial net, has had more success among younger viewers with German-dubbed cartoons and still uses major U.S. movies to pull in large audiences. The station actively targets the hip youth crowd.

“Relationship sitcoms are difficult,” says Pro-7 program director Jan Koerbelin. But mystery genres like “The X-Files” do well for the station. “We’re focused on quality fiction,” adds Koerbelin.

SAT 1, the No. 2 station which came close to matching RTL last November, continues its successful assault in primetime. Its dramatic series “Anna Maria – A Woman Goes Her Way” repeatedly passed the 10 million viewer mark.

Aside from that, the web still inclines toward action series, whether they revolve around crime or adventure. Its own “Kommissar Rex” is a big primetime winner, as are “MacGyver” and “Star Trek: Next Generation.” In 1995, this genre will be widened with acquired programs.