German Television Cutting Film Budgets

8:36 AM PST 03/08/2013 by Scott Roxborough
German television was a key financing partner on Michael Haneke's "Amour".

German TV backed Oscar-winner “Amour,” but now channels are cutting film financing.

COLOGNE, Germany – German public television, one of the main financiers for German theatrical projects and a key partner on European co-productions such as Michael Haneke's Oscar-winning Amour, has cut its budget for feature films, alarming the local industry.

Public broadcasters such as WDR, BR and ARD/Degeto, all backers on Amour, have cut primetime slots for German films in their schedules and, according to a recent report by industry publication Blickpunkt Film, reduced overall feature-film financing.

The problems are worst at ARD/Degeto, one of the leading financiers of art house films in Europe and backer of such recent festival titles as Ulrich Seidl's Paradise: Hope and Margarette von Trotta's Hannah Arndt.

Mismanagement at Degeto has meant the company has had to chop its film budget significantly. Parent company ARD has reduced the number of German films it shows in primetime, arguing there are few local titles that can attract the ratings demanded of Germany's leading public broadcaster. It is a similar story at regional channels WDR and BR, also major financiers for German film.

This comes as commercial channels – with the exception of Berlin-based Sat.1 – also have pushed German movies to the far edges of their schedule. Leading commercial network RTL aired just one German movie in primetime last year. Competitor Pro7 broadcast just four German films in primetime, compared with 12 in 2007.

Local producers also report downward pressure on license fees, making what TV deals do get struck less lucrative. 

Television is a cornerstone of film financing in Germany. Some 58 percent of all feature films made in the country in 2011, the last year for which figures are available, had TV money as part of the budget. The broadcasters also contribute to the budgets of federal and some state film subsidy bodies, which dole out cash for development and production.

The German association of television and film producers has called on local broadcasters to show a clear commitment to German film by installing regular primetime slots for national features and ensuring the continued financing of local-language titles.

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