German Network RTL Exits High-Profile Hitler Series

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Adolf Hitler

Amazon or Netflix could now board the 10-part limited series on the life of Adolf Hitler.

Seems the Fuhrer can't catch a break.

Leading German commercial network RTL has dropped plans to back an ambitious 10-part limited series on the life of Adolf Hitler.

The project, from Berlin-based UFA Fiction — producers of Deutschland 83 and Generation War — and Beta Film, whose credits include hit Italian mafia drama Gomorrah and Tom Tykwer's upcoming period series Babylon Berlin, has been one of the most talked-about series since it was unveiled at TV market MIPCOM in 2015.

The 10-hour series is based on Thomas Weber's biography Hitler's First War, which traces the Nazi leader's life from his time as a German solider in World War I through his rise to power, World War II and the Holocaust. Hitler's rise to power will be reflected through two of his WWI comrades: Fritz Wiedemann and the Jewish soldier Hugo Gutmann, as well as Karl Mayr, one of Hitler's first patrons who later turned against him. RTL and France's TF1 initially boarded the project as anchor networks, greenlighting the series. Production was initially set to begin last year.

But, in a move that could signal a shift in the German channel's drama strategy, RTL has dropped Hitler. In a recent interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, RTL managing director Frank Hoffmann confirmed the network would not be backing the series.

The move follows RTL's exit from the Cold War spy series Deutschland 83, one of last year's critical hits which premiered in the U.S. on Sundance TV, the first German-language series to air on a U.S. channel. But after a disappointing performance in Germany, RTL passed on bankrolling the second season of the show, another UFA Fiction production. Amazon Prime in Germany stepped into the breach, saying it would back season two — Deutschland 86 — which will premiere on Amazon in Germany and Austria in 2018. RTL has a first-look option for second window rights to the series

Winnetou, another high-profile German production commissioned by RTL, which aired over the holiday period, was an expensive flop. The three-part limited series, an adaptation of Karl May's “German Westerns,” started soft — with 5.2 million viewers for the first episode — and slipped sharply. The final episode drew just 2.97 million viewers for a market share of 9.5 percent, well below RTL's target. The Cologne-based broadcaster has invested heavily in homegrown drama in an effort to compete with the likes of Amazon and Netflix but, so far, has little to show for it. The network remains dependent on shiny-floor reality shows and imported U.S. drama for the bulk of its programming.

For its part, UFA Fiction has said it is moving forward with the Hitler series, saying it will look for further backing from international partners.