dialogue with Anke Schaferkordt


Anke Schaferkordt is sitting pretty atop German commercial giant RTL Television. RTL last year again defended its No. 1 position, helped by hit U.S. series "House," "Monk" and "CSI." But Hollywood labor strikes — past and looming — have made delivery of new U.S. product less than certain. On the eve of MIPTV, Schaferkordt talks strikes, ratings and German television's sweet addiction to U.S. drama with The Hollywood Reporter's German Bureau chief Scott Roxborough.

The Hollywood Re-porter: U.S.-made series have replaced German shows on primetime across the dial. Does that make German channels like RTL more vulnerable to uncontrollable events in Hollywood such as the potential actors strike this summer?

Anke Schafterkordt: It's not just an issue of the strikes — if you look at what's been coming out of the U.S. in the last couple of years, there weren't any top hits there either, shows that were a big successes in Germany. The established shows, the big brands like "CSI" work but the new shows haven't. Even a show like "Grey's Anatomy" hasn't been a big hit here, though I have to admit I'm a fan.

THR: Do you worry that RTL has become too addicted to U.S. series?

Schaferkordt: Well that's the thing with addiction. There are always two sides. No one likes being an addict, because you need that next fix. On the other hand, when it comes — when that "House" high, that 33% share — kicks in, it's fantastic. And we aren't that hooked on U.S. series. We have just one evening that is completely filled with American shows. But that Tuesday evening is, with the exception of big events, the most successful night of the week.

THR: One problem you do have, though, is creating a homemade hit drama.

Schaferkordt: German series have a real tough time at the moment. It's not just the commercial channels. If you look at the younger viewers, no one has landed a hit with German-made fiction. If we could duplicate (the success of the U.S. shows) one-to-one, we would do it immediately. But I'm convinced that German series will enjoy a comeback. We have to be more experimental and we have to find out what the German viewer really wants. And we will.

THR: What knock-on effect will RTL feel from the writers strike?

Schaferkordt: The immediate effect will be fewer episodes and more repeats for our hit shows. It won't knock a huge hole in our schedule. And looking ahead to the L.A. Screenings, I don't think there will be much to see. I expect it will be more the L.A. readings. But if you look at the big picture, I think the effect will be seen more with the U.S. networks. My personal opinion is that the networks will increase the number of reality series on their schedule. ... I think fiction production will go down.

THR: While top U.S. series continue to deliver for RTL, ratings for Hollywood films continue to slide right?

Schaferkordt: The downward trend for movies is something we've been seeing for several years now. It has to do with the expanded DVD exploitation before a film's free-TV premiere. The studios are, in a way, sawing at the TV branch that they're sitting on. The value of feature films is declining year to year.

THR: Has this changed your acquisition policy with regards to studio deals?

Schaferkordt: Drama series have become more relevant. Everyone is hoping for the next "CSI" or the next "House." I think the boom will continue for the next two to three years. And there is still demand for films. They don't get the ratings they once did but they still get a solid 20% share. But they are becoming more expensive in relation to their success. When it comes to series, however, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get that prince.