CAMPAIGN REPORT IN GERMANY: Why Germans embrace masthead TV. TV chiefs and publishers in Germany see masthead TV as a way of putting factual programmes on the air. Should the UK follow suit? By Robert Gray

Germany is the most successful market in the world for ’masthead television’ - where publishers exploit their magazine and newspaper titles on the small screen using branded programming. While the UK regulator, the Independent Television Commission, has regarded masthead TV with evident suspicion, the German authorities, led by the country’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, have not viewed it as a cause for concern.

Germany is the most successful market in the world for ’masthead

television’ - where publishers exploit their magazine and newspaper

titles on the small screen using branded programming. While the UK

regulator, the Independent Television Commission, has regarded masthead

TV with evident suspicion, the German authorities, led by the country’s

most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, have not viewed it as a

cause for concern.



Rather than seeing masthead TV as something to be treated with

scepticism, Germany has looked upon it as a way of securing informative

and watchable television. The upshot is that while masthead programming

in the UK totals fewer than 100 hours a year (restricted to cable and

satellite channels, although this is under review), in Germany there are

2,000 hours of masthead TV a year.



’The lessons to be drawn from Germany are that a positive regulator has

seen masthead programming as a useful way of getting factual programmes

on TV,’ says Andrew McCall, the managing director of the television

consultancy, Inside Broadcast, and author of the Financial Times

management report, Strategies for Magazine Branded Television, which was

published in October 1997.



’At the moment, the UK is missing out. There is a wealth of potential

lying in the vaults of magazines and newspapers, but they are all

holding on in the hope that they will be able to do something on

terrestrial TV.’



Masthead’s success in Germany is unquestionably down to bold regulatory

changes. In 1988, a licence to broadcast via ’windows’ in existing

channels was granted to the start-up company, DCTP, owned by its

founder, Alexander Kluge, the Japanese ad agency, Dentsu, and the

publisher, Spiegel Verlag.



The licence gave the Dusseldorf-based DCTP slots of up to six hours a

week across three national commercial channels - RTL, SAT 1 and,

latterly, the newcomer, Vox, which launched five years ago. These

windows were given over to a mix of programmes commissioned by DCTP and

including shows based on the magazines, Der Spiegel and Stern, and the

newspapers, Suddeutsche Zeitung and Neue Zurcher Zeitung.



Stern, a Gruner & Jahr bi-monthly, enjoys audiences of up to

four-and-a-half million viewers for its 90-minute masthead programme,

Stern TV, shown on Wednesdays by RTL. Spiegel TV has, over the past

decade, grown from nothing into an organisation that employs more than

100 staff and produces more than 500 hours of television a year for

three German channels.



Spiegel TV Magazine appears weekly on RTL, while SAT 1 shows Spiegel TV

Reportage. On Vox, where audience totals tend to be lower, Spiegel has

two branded programmes - Spiegel TV Special and Spiegel TV

Interview.



Spiegel also produces Vox’s news.



’Spiegel TV has worked because it has guarded the reputation for

independence Spiegel magazine is famous for,’ Jakob Krebs, the programme

co-ordinator for DCTP, says. ’As far as we are concerned, masthead

television needs this independence.’ Since it was given its slots ten

years ago, there is little doubt that DCTP has successfully commissioned

masthead programming which has delivered both editorial quality and

creditable audience figures.



This success story has encouraged other publishers into masthead

programming and made broadcasters more receptive to their approaches.

The publisher, Burda, turned its Focus magazine into Focus TV - produced

by its subsidiary, Burda Broadcast, and transmitted on Sundays by one of

the country’s largest broadcasters, Pro 7.



Back in May 1993, the publisher, H. Bauer, created Bravo TV out of one

of its leading publications, Bravo, a weekly magazine with a core

readership of 12- to 15-year-olds. Bravo TV fills a two-hour slot on

Sunday afternoons, with a repeat showing in the early hours of the

morning, and draws a combined audience of one million a week for the

broadcaster, RTL 2. The show is produced by the production company, MME,

in which Bauer has a 45 per cent stake.



’The TV show has been very successful in itself but it has also helped

plug the magazine,’ Andreas von Loessl, the head of TV production for

Bauer, comments. ’The chief editor of the print magazine decides what is

in the show. Some programme chiefs don’t like that very much but that is

why the show is successful - we know the market.’



But the issue of whether broadcaster or brand owner should exercise

editorial control has caused problems elsewhere. Last year, Axel

Springer was reportedly looking to create a programme out of its

sensationalist mass-market newspaper, Bild, but could not agree with its

putative partner, SAT 1 (in which Springer holds a stake) over the

degree of content control each should have.



However, the publisher that has arguably embraced masthead most ardently

is the Bertelsmann-owned G&J. As well as taking Stern on to RTL and Vox,

the magazines, Geo and Capital, have both been the basis for masthead

programmes.



Programming has also been born out of its stable of home interest titles

and this spring saw the launch of Brigitte TV, based on G&J’s young

women’s monthly, Brigitte. The intriguing thing about this is that it is

shown on Norddeutsche Rundfunk, owned by the public service broadcaster,

ARD.



That public service broadcasters are prepared to transmit branded

programmes shows how widely accepted masthead TV now is. Last year, a

G&J executive claimed that within five years the majority of its print

titles would be extended into masthead broadcasting - by no means an

impossibility.



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