VOD Service Gold Hopes to Be German Hulu

Jiri Hanzl
Tom Fontana's series 'Borgia' could be one of the series offered online on the new VOD platform.

Media authorities have rejected plans for a similar on-demand service planned by German broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat.1.

COLOGNE, Germany - Several of Germany's leading TV production and sales companies have set up a new VOD service, Gold GmbH, that hopes to become a Hulu for Germany.

Germany is Europe's largest television market and there is a scramble among rights holders and broadcasters to establish a Hulu-style one-stop shop for legal online TV viewing. Currently, the main online video services are ones linked to a single broadcast group, such as ProSiebenSat.1's Maxdome and RTL Group's RTL.Now. MyVideo, a video-sharing site also controlled by ProSiebenSat.1, is also pushing further into the VOD space with a new content deal with production house Grundy UFA that will give MyVideo 2,000 episodes of Grundy soaps including Forbidden Love and telenovela Sophie. Hulu does not operate in Germany.

Seventeen companies are part of Gold, including several commercial operations owned by public broadcasters, among them ZDF Enterprises, Telepool, Studio Hamburg and Bavaria, and a number of independent producers and rights groups, including Beta Film, Brainpool, MME Moviement and Ziegler Film.

The group represents a wide span of the German production landscape, with programming ranging from reality shows such as Undercover Boss (MME) to high-end series including Tom Fontana's Borgia (Beta) and Aussie teen show H20 - Just Add Water (ZDF) and a large archive of documentaries, children's programming and German feature films.

The Gold portal plans to finance itself through advertising, subscriptions and pay-per-view fees. Gold will be run by Studio Hamburg exec Antoine Schmidt-Roy and Jochen Kröhne, the former head of commercial network Tele 5.

Gold still has to get regulatory approval to launch in Germany, planned for later this year. The country's media watchdogs rejected plans for a similar VOD platform floated by commercial broadcasting giants RTL and ProSiebenSat.1. German regulators argued RTL and ProSieben, which already control around 75 percent of the free TV ad market, should not be allowed to extend that duopoly to online video.

Gold's launch comes as online streaming service Nexflix is mulling further European expansion, despite posting a $5 million loss in the first quarter of this year.