MIPCOM: With 'Scandal' and 'Scooby-Doo' Germany's Super RTL Takes on Disney Channel
CANNES – It's a rare network that would make Scooby-Doo and Shonda Rhimes' Scandal the twin pillars of its new season slate, but for Germany's Super RTL, radical times call for radical measures.
The network, Europe's leading children's channel, is revamping its programming to prepare for Walt Disney's launch, in January, of a free TV version of its Disney Channel in Germany. The move by Disney puts Super RTL in a complicated bind. Disney is a 50 percent shareholder (with RTL Group) of Super RTL as well as being one of its main program suppliers.
As of Jan. 1, 2014, though, Disney is cutting off its programing supply to Super RTL, leaving the Cologne-based channel with major holes to fill in its schedule. Perhaps surprisingly, however, Disney will remain co-owner of the German channel.
Super RTL boss Claude Schmit admitted to The Hollywood Reporter at MIPCOM in Cannes that the launch of a free Disney Channel will mean Super RTL will take a ratings and revenue hit.
"Of course we are going to lose market share and of course we will lose advertising revenue, it is just a question of how much and from where," said Schmit.
To compensate for the loss of its Disney shows, Super RTL has signed major programming deals with other studios. A new volume deal with Warner Bros. International Television, announced this week, will include popular cartoon franchises Tom & Jerry and Scooby-Doo as well as a slate of animated features. Super RTL inked an even larger output deal with DreamWorks Animation earlier this year that will see the Jeffrey Katzenberg-run studio supply the German net with 1,200 hours of programming through 2020.
At the same time, Super RTL is shifting its primetime focus in an attempt to broaden its demographic appeal. So the network that has been a byword for wholesome preteen entertainment in Germany is kicking off its fall schedule Oct. 14 with Scandal and will include German free TV premieres of ABC's Pretty Little Liars and Once Upon a Time as well as Syfy's supernatural series Lost Girl in its new lineup.
"We want our primetime schedule to appeal more broadly to women and not just families," Schmit said. "It's a risk, definitely, because it means shifting our brand and making a clearer break between the [kid-focused] daytime and the [women-targeted] primetime.”
Super RTL has announced a major rebanding of its on-air promotion and marketing for primetime aimed at making the shift clear for viewers.
But it is an open question whether the network can broaden its appeal. Earlier this year, Super RTL launched Glee in Germany, but the show failed to grab an audience and was soon dropped.
A free TV version of Disney Channel is also hardly a slam dunk for the German market. Disney intends to handle advertising sales for its new channel in house, which could prove a challenge in Germany, where the ad sales divisions of channel groups ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL Group have a virtual monopoly on the market.