Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Little TV Story

Quietly, ever so quietly, there is a TV war under way in Germany.  Over the past two decades...cable TV has been moving out into towns and cities.  Depending on where you live....you probably have a hook-up for cable TV.  You might still have a satellite up and avoid paying the monthly charge for your TV delivery.

Well....one of the big players of cable TV is Kabel Deutschland. Typically, they carry both private channels, and the public networks (ARD, ZDF, etc).  The public networks are a state-run operation....driven by TV taxes that every German ends up paying.  A decision in the last year was made by the public TV folks to stop paying Kabel Deutschland the money to carry their operation on cable TV.

The amount saved?  Some different figures exist but the general amount appears in the 26-to-30 million Euro range.

Kabel Deutschland got a bit upset about this money issue.  So they made a decision.  The big public channels....they would still carry (ARD, ZDF, and SAT3).  But these twenty odd regional or odd channels that the state-run guys run?  They would carry only the local regional channel in that particular region.  The rest of the oddball lowly viewed channels were dropped.

The state-run TV guys were furious.  This basically cut down viewership across the board, and it's hard to go back to the government and ask for more money, if your viewership numbers are dismal.  So they pulled out the book and said it's public law that you must carry all of what they offer.  The entire mess is now headed to the court.

I should add too....that Kabel Deutschland also got smart and tinkered with the HD data streams for the three big public channels (ARD, ZDF, and SAT3).  Degraded?  Well....yeah, just a little.  It's absolutely five-star like the private channels enjoy.  No one put that into a law....so Kabel Deutschland might actually get away with that episode.

Course, there's probably some dimwit German political figure working on a law that says you can't tinker with data streams.  That would be a curious law, if written.

What's happening here?  The state-run TV guys are on a mission to create as many media outlets as possible and show that people want their services.  Their NEO channel is one good example.  NEO was non-existent a couple of years ago.  What the public TV guys found was that younger folks were not watching state-run TV channels....to any degree.  So NEO was supposed to provide refreshing and exciting TV options.  So far?  It's nothing to brag about and NEO probably doesn't have enough viewers after three years to really say it's anything of a success.

As time goes by...these experimental networks will be dropped....to help funding survive for most everything that was there originally.  The public sentiment in Germany is that folks are paying enough and they really don't like the current TV tax scheme.  You ask anyone between the ages of 15 and 25....most all admit they never watch any German public TV network.  If you ask the crowd between 50 and 70....the vast number admit they watch mostly all of their viewing on German public TV.  The dinosaurs are dying, and the truth is....so is German public TV.

What happens in court?  I'm guessing the law will be reviewed and it will be clear that it's original intent did not include an enlarged menu of various state-run TV networks.  Some judge will ask if they add another dozen channels....would Kabel be forced to show those stations?  The response will be a laugh or two, and most everyone in the room will grin.

This thirty-odd million Euro that state-run TV is saving?  It'd be curious to ask where they tossed the money or how they used it.  I'm guessing ARD and ZDF would prefer not to talk about that deal.

So, at the end of the day....some state-run TV guys are worried that their empire is dwindling and that some lousy commercial TV cable company is part of the demise.  And the best they can do....is ask for more TV taxes to make up for the shortfall.

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