AFM 2012: Tele-Munchen's Herbert L. Kloiber on Joining the Family Business

 Andreas Buttner

A new face, with a very familiar name, joined the European media scene last month when Herbert L. Kloiber, the 36-year-old son of Tele-Munchen Group boss Herbert G. Kloiber, was named to the No. 2 job of managing director at the Bavarian media conglomerate.

A graduate of Boston and Columbia Universities, the younger Kloiber previously worked for Bruno Wu’s Sun Media Investment Holding and for VOD platform OnDemand Group.

In his first interview since joining the family firm, Kloiber spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about growing up in the business, the challenges facing TMG in the digital age and lessons he learned from his father.

The Hollywood Reporter: Does your appointment mean your father is retiring?

Herbert L. Kloiber: Oh no. My father is still passionate about this business and he will continue to be active as long as he still enjoys it. There are no plans for any transfer or succession and, to be honest, I am very grateful he's there. I can learn so much for him and I’m excited to be able to work with him.

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THR: What will be the division of labor between you and your father with regards to the Tele-Munchen Group?

Kloiber: Essentially the same as before with (my predecessor) Dirk (Schweizer). I’m responsible for the licensing business and for home entertainment, national and international sales, merchandising and the on demand and digital business. My father is, of course, so close to the business that he’s always involved in the big deals for major rights packages. The whole production and channels business is separate but there are overlaps. Co-production, for example, have to have a sales component and all elements combine together.

THR: What have you learned from your father about how to run the business?

Kloiber: He doesn’t have any special mantras or sayings but I think he showed me, through his example, how important it is to be independent; that you have to be nimble in this business, be able to make decisions quickly and that you have to trust your gut instinct. My father makes a lot of decisions based on his instinct. And that, of course, comes through many years of experience. It is something you can’t teach. That kind of instinct you can only acquire it over many years of experience. But it’s something I have experience with — it’s not entirely new to me. I grew up in this business. As a two-year-old I played in the same office I work in now. I did a lot of other things aside from media — I studied finance and did international relations — but I was always in close contact with my father and from the time I was 18 or even younger he took me along to the markets — to Mip-TV, the LA screenings, and so on. I know a lot of the contacts, our company’s business partners over the years. That helps me a lot now because those relationships are already there.

THR: What is your first order of business, now that you’ve joined the family firm?

Kloiber: First I have to gather more experience and analyze the situation at the company — how things work. Maybe it’s a good opportunity, coming from the outside, to question why certain things are done the way they are. This isn’t to say I want to turn things upside down, but maybe it would be good to take a closer look and see where we can make improvements and move into new territory.

THR: You have a background in VOD. Will that be a primary focus for you at Tele-Munchen?

Kloiber: Of course. I have that background and I will be taking a close look at what we’ve been doing in the VOD space so far and push things further. Germany right now isn’t as far along as other markets when it comes to digital distribution. I think that will change in the next few years. We need to position ourselves for it and help build up these new business models for the German market. It currently is just a small part of my job, since our core business is and remains licensing to free-TV, and will remain so for the coming years. But I will also have a strong focus on the digital media and to expand and further build up those operations inside Tele-Munchen.

THR: What’s the biggest challenge facing TMG at the moment?

Kloiber: I think the free-TV landscape in Germany will change dramatically, from a TV programming side, because of cost cutting and because there will be more and more digital offerings, pay services and VOD services. That will continue to increase and we have to adjust our licensing and production strategy to reflect this. So many of the things we buy or produce ourselves are first available two or more years later on TV, so we have to calculate where the market will be by then. Given the current state of flux, that’s a major challenge.

THR: You know this company inside out. What’s the secret of TMG’s success?

Kloiber: That’s a family secret, so I’m not allowed to tell. Seriously, if there is a secret, it has something to do with our independence, which lets us be nimble and entrepreneurial and take risks. That’s all important to us having long-term success, but we must also be a dependable partner, whether it's to the studios licensors on the acquisition side, or our production partners or the channels and platforms we sell to. It has a lot to do with brand building. The brand Tele Munchen and my father, who is bound up with it, stands for something in this business. It took a long time to create this brand and I think it’s an important part of Tele Munchen’s success.

THR: Does it have a special meaning for you — carrying on in the family firm?

Kloiber: Absolutely. It’s a much larger responsibility and and different motivation, to help to shape and advance something — a family business — that has grown steadily and successfully for more than 40 years. In family businesses, it’s not just about climbing the career ladder. The success of the company is important for our family as a whole. At another company, if things were going poorly, you could just leave. That’s not an option here. One doesn’t have to be melodramatic about it but it binds the whole family together.

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