Old school rules in German news

ProSieben fails to break ARD's lock on market

Old school rules.

For more than half a century, pubcaster ARD has dominated Teuton airwaves with its nightly newscast “Tagesschau” (View of the Day).

While other news shows aggressively reinvent themselves, ARD’s flagship remains a throwback to an earlier age. Its newsreaders sit in front of a map of the world, sans teleprompter, reciting bulletins from sheets of paper in staccato style for 15 commercial-free minutes every night at 8 p.m.

“Germans like their news that way,” says ARD News topper Kai Gniffke. “They want what seems to them like a notarized copy of the day’s news.”

ProSieben and other commercial webs have tried — and failed — to break ARD’s lock on 8 p.m. with “Tagesschau,” which first aired in 1952 and still draws nearly 6 million viewers each night. But Sat.1 bravely launched an effort on March 17 that got off to a promising start: an average of 1.84 million viewers (for a 6.2% share, compared with ARD’s 20.3%) in its first week. In the 14-49 target demo, Sat.1 was even closer, with a 7.7% share vs. ARD’s 12.8%.

Credit Sat.1’s everyman approach to the news: While “Tagesschau” is digestible and perhaps even satisfying for the nation’s political and business elites, it’s frequently not illuminating for anyone lacking an advanced degree in political science or economics.

“There have been a number of studies that found out that a lot of viewers don’t even really understand the contents of ‘Tagesschau,’ ” says Sat.1 anchor Peter Limbourg. “We want to be the intelligible alternative.”

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