Tyke web Super RTL grows up

Topper predicts 50% rise in profits this year

BERLIN — The Teutonic love child of Disney and European broadcasting giant RTL Group is making its parents proud.

While the rest of Germany’s many terrestrial broadcasters watch revenues and profits sink, 8-year-old tyke web Super RTL bucks the trend. And new programming deals with Disney and RTL are expected to boost its ratings and bottom line even more.

The web had its best year yet in 2002, with operating profits of $6.4 million on revenues of $92 million. Super RTL saw a 4% boost in first-quarter sales to nearly $29 million and topper Claude Schmit is predicting a 50% surge in profits this year and sales up to $98 million.

He attributes this growth to an increase in merchandising and cross-media marketing, which have helped offset the drop in advertising.

Success has strengthened Schmit’s hand in making his case for a primetime lineup aimed at moms and dads as well as kids. “The reason we have been so successful is that we never shut out grownups,” he says. “We have always sought to be a family channel.”

Programming contracts with its parent companies are expiring this year and Super RTL has inked new six-year profit-sharing deals with Disney and RTL worth e200 million ($230 million). Super RTL is getting the acquisitions free of charge and risk, but will have to share advertising profits with both parents.

Most of the tyke channel’s new films and series may be hand-me-downs, like ABC’s “Cleopatra,” “Father of the Bride” (parts I and II), “Cool Runnings” and “When a Man Loves a Woman,” but the programming is still attractive enough to fill primetime slots on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Indeed, the deal’s 2,000 hours of programming a year fills the web’s primetime schedule and contributes a good portion to its daytime lineup.

While Super RTL is looking to close the ratings gap, it is way ahead of the competition among 3- to 13-year-old viewers (hooked on “SpongeBob SquarePants,” among many other shows) not to mention advertisers and merchandising partners.

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