Is Stefan Raab the king of Teutonic TV?
TV host, producer scores with youth demographicStefan Raab was in the midst of a live taping of his hit show "Beat the Raab" when it happened: Storming down a hill on his mountain bike -- the show pits Raab against a studio contestant in a series of challenges both athletic and bizarre -- he lost control and fell hard to the ground.
Doctors rushed to him. The diagnosis: A massive concussion. Despite a huge scar along the side of his face, Raab got back up and finished the show.
Say hello to the Iron Man of German entertainment. For more than a decade, Raab has been the king of Teutonic TV. As a nightly talk show host, a writer of a string of No. 1 hit songs and as a producer of some of the most successful and original formats on the small screen.
"I wouldn't say I'm consumed by ambition but I'm very, very competitive," says Raab, who trained as a butcher (the family business) and lawyer before landing his first TV gig.
A sampling of the shows Raab has created and produced with Cologne-based partner Brainpool TV include:
"TV Total" -- Germany's most successful late-night talk show, now in its 11th year, which combines "Daily Show"-style news clips with live acts such as Shakira and Eminem.
"Wok World Cup" -- Celebrities and sports champs compete in a luge-style sledding race, ridding on well-waxed wok pans.
"Autoball" -- VIPs strap into cars and compete to ram a massive soccer ball into the opposing goal.
"Fight Night" -- Raab goes mano-a-mano in the ring with female boxing champions. On the first show, WIBF champ Regina Halmich broke his nose with a hard left hook.
On all his shows, Raab does double duty behind and in front of the camera. He develops the ideas, pitches them to the network and takes part in the on-air show, usually as the main attraction. He has a lock on Germany's youth demographic. "Beat the Raab" nabbed a 30% share of the youth market (14- to 49-year-olds) when it debuted in 2006 on commercial net Pro7. "When it comes to his target audience, the youth audience, there's no one who does it better than Raab," says Jan Richter, head of world sales group SevenOne International.
Richter should know. He's sold the "Beat the Raab" format as "Beat Your Host" to 14 countries, including ITV in the U.K., TF1 in France, Australia's Channel 7, Telecinco in Spain and Hu Nan TV in China. The U.S. rights were picked up by paraMedia, whose boss Jim Paratore produced shows like "The Bachelor" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
It was Raab's golden touch that appealed to French production giant Banjjay, which last year took a 50% stake in Brainpool. Raab still holds 12.5% in the company and judging by the flurry of new formats he's launched -- "Our Star for Oslo," "Stock Car Challenge" and "Ice Soccer" -- he still enjoys the same level of creative freedom.
"I need that freedom and the ability to make quick decisions," Raab says. "At Pro7 I can up and say, 'I've got a great idea!' And they say: 'Do it!' "
Alongside his TV work, Raab is a prolific songwriter, churning out spoof tunes like a Teutonic Weird Al Yankovic. Raab took the theme music from "Die Maus," a beloved German children's cartoon and turned it into a family-friendly hip-hop number. He sampled and spun TV footage of former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder to create a chart-topping pop song and, from a clip of a woman saying "barbed-wire fence" in a heavy East German accent, built a hit country western toe-tapper.
Appropriately, Raab's idol is James Brown -- the "hardest working man in show business." On the first "Schlag den Raab" show after his bike crash, the German entertainer did the soul legend proud. Just four weeks after his accident and over four hours of live television Raab, 43, defeated his 28-year-old challenger. The show also trounced the competition, scoring a 27% rating among 14-49s. After a decade at the top of German TV, Stefan Raab is still the star to beat.