Germans are turning away from TV

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For the first time in recent memory, Germans spent less time in front of their TVs than they had the year before. Also, German kids watched significantly less television, boding ill for the future of the medium.

According to the preliminary results of an annual study by Germany's television research institute, the GfK in Nuremberg, average per-day viewing in 2007 slipped to 208 minutes, down from 212 the year before. For young people the drop was more severe, from 184 to 178 minutes.

The decrease might reflect a rise in the amount of time Germans spend at the computer. The introduction of such Web sites as MySpace.de and iTunes.de in 2007 ramped up the trend toward online entertainment consumption here, which had long lagged that of the U.S. and U.K.

But the fact that the major broadcasters also lost ground to smaller channels might signal the beginnings of dissatisfaction with big-time television programming in general. Market share in 2007 for pubcaster ARD, the overall leader, went down almost a full percentage point year to year, from 14.3% to 13.4%. Its sister pubcaster, ZDF, dropped from 13.6% to 12.9%, while commercial market leader RTL gave up 0.4% to land at 12.4%.

Sat.1 and ProSieben remained just slightly below last year's levels, with 9.6% and 6.5%, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Cologne-based commercial channel Vox jumped almost a full percentage point to 4.7% on the strength of such cooking shows as "Das perfekte Dinner" and "Unter Volldampf." And niche channels including NBC Universal's Das Vierte, Discovery Channel's DMAX and Viacom's Comedy Channel and Nick accounted for a combined audience share of almost 5% (HR 12/18).

That might not sound like much, but if it's being shaved off the big channels' shares, it may be a hint of things to come.
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