Germans watching less TV

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MUNICH -- For the first time in recent memory, Germans spent less time in front of their TVs than they had the year before. And 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 doubled, down to 178 minutes from 184 in 2006.

The decrease may reflect a rise in the amount of time Germans spent 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 behind that of the U.S. and U.K.

But the fact that the major broadcasters also lost ground to smaller channels may 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 over the year, from 14.3% to 13.4%. Its sister pubcaster, ZDF, dropped to 12.9% from 13.6% in 2006, while commercial market leader RTL gave up 0.4% to land at 12.4% this year.

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%.

That may 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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