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Tele Muenchen Group Celebrates 45 Years as Independent Spirit in Media

Tele Muenchen group, which was founded 45 years ago, is one of Europe’s few truly independent media congloms. The companies it controls or has a substantial stake in are active in free-to-air broadcasting, movie distribution, film and TV production, and film and TV rights trading in Germany and Austria, as well as overseas sales and production.

The company’s independence allows it to be nimble, entrepreneurial and to take risks, and TMG’s chairman and owner, Herbert G. Kloiber, admits that he is, at times, opportunistic.

“I might meet somebody on the plane this afternoon, and if I like the way he’s thinking we may or may not discuss opportunities,” he told Variety at the Mipcom TV conference in Cannes in October.

Kloiber is an accomplished dealmaker, repeatedly trading in stocks in various media companies, and making major investments in new ventures over the past 4½ decades. Major corporate landmarks include the institution of movie distributor Concorde Film in 1980, the launch of free-to-air broadcasters Tele 5 in 1987 and RTL II in 1992, the acquisition of major stakes in Austrian broadcaster ATV in 1999 and production company Odeon Film in 2011. Other businesses include production outfits Clasart Film, which specializes in arthouse films, and Prisma Film, which focuses on factual and entertainment formats.

Three years ago, Kloiber’s son, Herbert L. Kloiber, joined the company as managing director. He said at the time he would ask questions about how things were run, both in order to understand the business and with an eye to improving operations to equip the company for changes ahead in the media landscape.

Two of the major shifts in recent decades have been the explosion in the quantity of TV and film content available, and the vast expansion in the number of channels and platforms to sell those films and shows to, which for a leading rights trader and producer like TMG can only be good news. Even in the short period since Kloiber the younger has joined TMG, that landscape has changed, especially with the arrival in Germany of Netflix. Investment in production — either through its own production entities or through international co-production — has become an even greater focus for the company.

“We need to be investing more of our resources in creating programming; whether it is internationally oriented programs or purely domestic programming is a sub-decision of how the mix will be. So we are shifting maybe $50 million to $100 million of buying power to ‘making’ power,” says Kloiber Sr.

TMG’s international distribution arm has benefited from this rise in the group’s production output. “Every year we come (to Mipcom), we have a 25% increase in the number of shows we offer, and a bigger variety,” he says. These shows include not just drama, but also entertainment formats and documentaries.

“The intention is to get a little more into the direction of controlling all rights of content.”
Herbert L. Kloiber, managing director, Tele Muenchen

His son adds that the intention is to remain active along the entire chain, from production to distribution, and across all the licensing windows.

“The intention is to get much more into the direction of controlling all rights of content, whether it is because you produced and developed it yourself, or structure deals in a way that allows you to be nimble enough with those rights to adapt to mid- to long-term changes within the market,” he says.

The days of the huge TV output deals with Hollywood are largely at an end.

“The U.S. studios don’t necessarily deliver the type of content that the German market is looking for, so we buy differently in that sense, and we are looking more in the direction of producing locally, and at what we can produce internationally as a co-production partner,” he says.

The intention is to come on board international productions, as a financing partner, in the initial stages of a project. Most of the international production output will be English-language, and mainly with U.S. or U.K. partners.

“English-language production, particularly on the television side, is growing for us as we come in very early to series projects, or even now expanding our own development on English-language drama series, which we haven’t really done before so much,” Kloiber Jr. says.

Recent investments in international shows include “The Night Manager” from Simon Cornwell’s the Ink Factory and directed by Susanne Bier with scripts by John le Carre and David Farr; “The Shannara Chronicles” from Sonar Entertainment, based on the fantasy books by Terry Brooks; and Cuba Pictures’ “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” the British series based on the bestselling novel by Susanna Clarke that had already posted strong ratings in the U.K. It’s also developing true crime series “Blender.” TMG’s international sales slate at AFM is headlined by “The Von Trapp Family — A Life of Music,” which was recently acquired by Lionsgate in North America and the U.K., about the famous singing family.

Kloiber Sr. notes the scarcity of primetime procedurals that German audiences favor, at a time when the Hollywood studios have opted for “mysterious, dark, brooding stories” better-suited to pay TV outlets and subscription VOD platforms than the free-to-air channels that dominate the German market.
“That is where we are actively searching and co-developing, and putting a few chips down,” he says.

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