German Nick net folds

New kids' channel, tough competish cited

BERLIN — Becoming the first private web with nationwide distribution to shut down in Europe’s most competitive TV territory, Nickelodeon Germany ceased broadcasting on Sunday.

“It is no secret that the kids television market in Germany has been a difficult one with significant structural challenges,” said Karen Flischel, managing director of Nickelodeon in Europe, in announcing the move last week.

Flischel attributes the failure of the weblet — which went on the air in July 1995 — in part to the arrival last year of ad-free children’s channel Kinderkanal, a joint venture of German pubcasters ARD and ZDF. While Kinderkanal had a must-carry status, Nickelodeon was forced to battle for space in crowded German cable systems.

But the shrinking children’s ad market was the weblet’s primary problem, according to Flischel. In Germany, commercial webs receive no revenues from cable operators and are forced to rely on advertising alone for their income. “Since we started, the amount of money available on the kids’ ad market has decreased quite significantly,” Flischel explained. Due to an ongoing recession and declining birthrates in Germany, “advertisers are spending less money targeting kids.”

Part of a trend

Other German webs are currently in the process of eliminating or reducing kids’ programming. Commercial network ProSieben recently cut down its programming for young children, and even family weblet SuperRTL –Germany’s market leader among 3-13-year-olds — is considering new programming concepts.

In future, New York-based Nickelodeon will license its programming to media outlets in Germany.

Flischel declined to comment on the size of Nickelodeon Germany’s losses. U.S. entertainment giant Viacom holds 90% of the shares in Nickelodeon Germany, and toy company Ravensburger Verlag 10%. Viacom’s other German holdings, music channels MTV and VH1, are also reported to be deep in red ink.