Pricey telepics capture imagination, ratings

Territory report: Germany

Broadcasters have boldly tackled a broad range of topics in high-profile telepics this year. From the World War II bombing of Dresden to a meteorological disaster movie with an environmental message, splashy event movies have become important staple programming for Germany’s major broadcasters.

Most recently, more than 4.5 million viewers tuned in early September for ProSieben’s “Tornado,” in which worsening global weather patterns trigger a killer twister that devastates Berlin.

Pic was produced by Berlin-based teamWorx, Germany’s most successful TV production shingle. Company, a joint venture with RTL Group’s UFA Film & TV Produktion, has produced recent hits such as World War II drama “Dresden” for pubcaster ZDF, postwar drama “The Airlift” for Sat 1 and RTL’s real-life disaster pic “Storm Tide” — all powerhouse ratings winners.

TeamWorx will next produce two more major historical epics, “The Hindenburg,” a co-production with Jan Mojto’s EOS Entertainment, and “The Laconia,” an English-language co-production with the BBC about the sinking of a British passenger liner by a German U-boat.

Inhouse-produced series and entertainment formats still lead overall among Germany’s main webs. As in the U.S., forensics and legal dramas and high-octane crime actioners are all the rage.

Coming this fall to Sat 1 is the new “GSG9 — Die Elite-Einheit,” about an elite federal police unit battling international terrorists and organized crime in the German capital.

At RTL, the fall lineup includes new homegrown series such as “Post Mortem,” — a cross between “Cold Case Files” and “CSI” — and “Die Anwaelte” (“The Lawyers”).

UFA Film & TV, meanwhile, is itself a major content supplier to all four major broadcasters in Germany, delivering hit telenovelas such as Sat 1’s “That’s Life” and the new “Love Is in the Air,” as well as RTL’s new “Alles was zaehlt” (All That Matters) and the long-lived daily soap “Good Times, Bad Times.”

While initially boasting top ratings, the telenovela skeins appear to be wearing out their welcome as viewership continues to shrink.

As for U.S. shows, “CSI: Miami” on RTL has become the highest-rated American series on German TV, followed by RTL’s “House” and “CSI,” and “CSI: NY” on affiliate web Vox. ProSieben’s “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” have also amassed legions of loyal followers, but have not come close to the success of the “CSI” franchise.

Looking at long-term strategy, RTL and ProSiebenSat 1 have welcomed Germany’s digital awakening as regional cablers and satellite operators continue to roll out more services to customers.

TOP 3 SHOWS

  1. “Der Winzerkoenig,” ARD

  2. “In aller Freundschaft,” ARD

  3. “CSI: Miami,” RTL

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