MIPTV: German Public Broadcasters Pledge $140 million Annually For New Productions

UPDATE: Germany’s TV licence fee to drop as of 2015, potentially hampering plans to push for more high-end homemade drama.

Flush from an unexpected budget surplus, Germany’s public broadcasters have pledged to plow some $140 million (€100 million) a year back into local production. In particular, pubwebs networks ARD and ZDF have announced plans to boost their drama budgets and invest more in big-budget series.

ARD has greenlit the ambitious historic drama Charite from Berlin production house UFA Fiction as one of its first new projects. The limited six-episode series will trace the history of Berlin’s legendary Charite hospital, which many credit with inventing modern medical research.

Veteran TV producer Nico Hofmann first announced the project at the Mipcom market in Cannes two years ago. He will produce Charite together with Benjamin Benedict and Jana Brandt of ARD regional broadcaster MDR. Award-winning German TV writer Dorothee Schon will write the script for the series together with doctor and medical historian Sabine Thor-Wiedemann.

But on Thursday, German authorities ruled that pubwebs should instead reduce their TV license fee that all viewers are required to pay to finance the country’s public broadcasters. The license fee with go down by around $0.67 (€0.48) a month to $24.41 (€17.50) starting next year.

That might nip plans for a drama revival in the bud. Germany’s public broadcasters, however, will still have a substantial surplus to spend. Despite having the world’s best-funded public broadcasters, Germany has lagged behind European neighbors such as Denmark (The Killing, The Bridge) and France (The Returned) when it comes to producing high-end TV drama that can sell outside the country.