Teutonic TV trials

Germany potentially lucrative, but risks exist

COLOGNE — Investment in the German TV market, the world’s second-largest after the United States, remains an attractive prospect, international industry representatives agreed in a panel discussion Tuesday at the Cologne Conference.

That assessment reinforced remarks made at the Media Forum here Sunday by global media mogul Rupert Murdock confirm-ing his interest in the German TV market (Daily Variety, June 15).

But at the same time, the industry representatives said, Germany can be treacherous ground for uninformed foreign investors.

“The laws of the German market must be respected,” Christiane zu Salm, managing director of MTV Central Europe, told conference attendees. After losing out initially to Cologne-based music channel Viva, MTV’s ad income has risen steadily since the web began introducing German-lingo programming last year.

Success in Germany can come only through “understanding the German mentality,” zu Salm said.

The prospect of tough competition is not discouraging foreign producers from moving into the territory. Andrea Wonfor, joint managing director of U.K.-based Granada Productions, announced at the conference that Granada will set up a production company in Germany. Commercial web RTL has commissioned Granada to produce three shows based on original British formats. Currently, Wonfor said, Granada is looking for “the right German partnership.”

Canadian production company Alliance is also taking advantage of opportunities in Germany, reported Jean-Michel Ciszewski, president of Alliance Television International. Alliance series “Blackjack” and “Due South” are produced together with German web ProSieben.

In developing these projects, Ciszewski said, “we work as close as possible to our clients in terms of script and casting.” Together with local partners, Alliance will begin shooting a TV movie in Germany and Switzerland soon.

As German webs now fill most of their primetime slots with homegrown productions, the role of U.S. companies in Germany is changing, said Sandra Kresch, partner at Price Waterhouse. Increasingly, Kresch said, Americans will look for German partners to cooperate in “co-productions, and in developing German versions of U.S. cable networks.”