Germany's RTL Snags Rights to 'Undercover Boss'

The Bertelsmann-owned network won a bidding war for the format, but had spent seven figures for "The Apprentice," only to cancel it after one season.

BERLIN – The Apprentice got canned after its first season in Germany but local TV giant RTL is taking another go at corporate reality with Undercover Boss.

The Bertelsmann-owned broadcaster won the bidding war for German rights to the hit format, in which top CEOs go undercover to see what really goes on in their own companies.
 
The CBS version of the Brit-developed reality show was a massive hit in its first season, drawing 38.7 million viewers on its post-Super Bowl debut and averaging a 5.6 rating among adults 18-49.
 
But RTL has been burnt before trying to translate an Anglo-Saxon business-based reality hit to Germany’s very different corporate culture. RTL laid down seven figures for format rights to The Apprentice in 2004, only to cancel the German version of the show after one disappointing season.

If Germany has a version of Donald Trump in its country’s boardrooms, he isn’t willing to go on television to humiliate people. RTL instead picked much-loved plus sized soccer manager Reiner Calmund, a host more cuddly than cruel.
 
In an interview with German trade paper DWDL, RTL exec Markus Kuttner admitted it will be a challenge transplanting the show’s ivory tower vs. front-line reality dynamic to Germany, where the “gap isn’t as big” between the top and bottom of the corporate ladder and big shot CEOs can be seen “driving their sports cars down to the discounter.”

Producers MME are adapting the format for the German market. The first episodes will air later this year.

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