Germany to start paying for MTV

MTV Deutschland will be a pay network beginning January

COLOGNE, Germany -- If Germans want their MTV, they're going to have to start paying for it. In a radical change of strategy, MTV Networks has announced it is taking its flagship channel off free-TV in Germany, making MTV Deutschland a pay-TV net starting in January next year.

VIVA, the German music channel that MTV acquired in 2004, will remain on the free-TV dial. Several top MTV formats will shift over to VIVA. MTV Networks hopes to boost ratings for VIVA in the key 14-29 demographic from around 1.8% now to 2.5% next year and 3% in the medium term, and so soak up most the ad revenue lost by shifting MTV Deutschland over to pay. Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, which share a channel in Germany, will, for the moment, remain on free-TV.

Advertising revenues at MTV Deutschland dipped sharply during the recession and this move could be seen an attempt to salvage the channel. But it could also point to a new era in German TV. While traditional ad revenue has stagnated, turnover at MTV's German pay channels -- including MTV Rocks, VH1, Nick Jr. and others -- has tripled in the past three years as more viewers buy the premium digital bouquets on offer from German cable networks.

MTV Deutschland is one of the first high-profile channels to switch from free to pay-TV in Germany. But given the economics in the territory, it is unlikely to be the last.