Surprising and nonconformist

March 2018

Germany, RTL II (German TV)

Since its first transmission on 6 March 1993, RTL II has created many a headline and set numerous trends which have left their mark- still evident today – on the medium of television. To celebrate 25 years of broadcasting, Backstage recalls the most notable highlights.

It all started on 6 March 1993, at 06:09. New broadcaster RTL II opened with the feature film Little Miss Marker starring Walther Matthau, Julie Andrews and Tony Curtis. Later the first ‘Action News’ lit up German TV screens and RTL II broadcast a number of sporting events – including The World Wrestling Federation, the Champions League and tennis.

These days, other broadcasters handle sport. On the other hand, RTL II rapidly became a pioneer and promoter of new TV genres, without which TV would be unimaginable today.

Reality TV comes to Germany

RTL II has always been a little bit braver than other broadcasters – an example is the erotic magazine programme peep!, which first aired in 1995. One of the presenters was Verona Feldbusch.

One of the most durable innovations was – and still is – Big Brother. With this format, RTL II established Reality TV as a genre in German TV, a move which at the time proved to be dynamite amongst the general public and on the political scene – and triggered a veritable Reality TV boom.

The Big Brother (2000) house mates Zlatko and Jürgen made sure there was plenty to talk about – in the house and among the viewers © RTL II

Talent shows: Popstars was the first

In the same year as Big Brother, Popstars – Du bist mein Traum also hit the screens. This was the first talent show format on German TV and produced ‘No Angels’ as its first successful band. Their single ‘Daylight In Your Eyes’ sold over a million CDs and held the number 1 spot in the charts for weeks.

RTL II has always had music in its blood – in 1997 the first The Dome took place in the Oberhausen Arena. 10,000 fans enjoyed live performances from bands such as ‘Tic Tac Toe’, ‘Caught in the Act’ and ‘DJ BoBo’.

Docusoaps: Story telling with staying power 

As well as with Reality TV and music, RTL II has also made a name for itself in recent years with the docusoap genre –  The GeissensThe WollnysThe ReimannsDaniela Katzenberger, Frauentausch (Wife Swap), Die Kochprofis – Einsatz am Herd (Professional Cooks – Hard at Work at the Cooker) are just some of the formats that stick in the memory.

One of the first appearances of ‘No Angels’ © RTL II / Michael Heeg

Worth an award: A different type of journalism

And yet RTL II can be serious – how to convey socially relevant subjects to young target groups? Other media delayed addressing this issue until the internet and social media threatened their position, but RTL II News has been responding to this since as far back as 1993. With its daily news bulletin at 20.00, available online, on Facebook and Instagram, RTL II has proved its ability to be highly relevant to juveniles and young adults.

In its documentaries and news reports, RTL II keeps managing to find new ways of accessing and talking about difficult subjects – in 2006, the report entitled The Experiment – 30 Days a Muslim was awarded the European and German CIVIS television prize. Tatort Internet – Schützt endlich unsere Kinder (Internet Crime Scene – No More Delays in Protecting our Children) shone the spotlight on paedophiles and provoked a broad public debate. And in January 2018, RTL II received the German Television Award in the Best Information category for Endlich Klartext – Der große RTL II Politik-Check (Plain Talking At Last – The Big RTL II Political Check-up).

Beyond television: Successes online and in social media

With, RTL II was one of the first broadcasters to go online – in 1995. The ground-breaking early evening series Berlin – Tag & Nacht (Berlin – Day & Night) and Köln 50667 (Cologne 50667) are the most successful German TV formats on Facebook and also have a high ranking on catch-up TV.

May 2016 saw the launch of the digital service RTL II You for young viewers up to the age of 25, which is intended to combine linear streaming and video-on-demand. However, it was unable to compete successfully against the big video and streaming platforms. On the other hand, the new major dating format Love Island is coming up with the next digital innovation. The format works only in conjunction with the official smart phone app. And the Grip channel on YouTube has already notched up a sensational 336 million video hits.

since it launched, Berlin – Tag & Nacht has been one of the broadcaster’s major hits © RTL II

Fiction at its best: Series as programme events

Bollywood melodramas and Japanese anime – RTL II was the first to show these on German TV screens and also the best US series have always had and still have a home with RTL II. The broadcaster also broke with programming convention by being the first to screen the thriller highlight 24 in whole seasons. This enabled the broadcaster to keep true to the real-time plot of the series. Also, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, the two most successful series in the world, were screened by RTL II as event programming in whole seasons on a single weekend – the broadcaster’s logical response to the public’s changed viewing behaviour.

Yesterday, today and in the future: RTL II is reality broadcaster No 1

Surprising, nonconformist and so close: That’s RTL II. The broadcaster shows us real life in all its aspects. That is what makes RTL II the No 1 German-language reality broadcaster.  And the evidence is long-running successes such as Zuhause im Glück (At Home In Luck) or Der Trödeltrupp (Treasure In The Cellar), and this applies too at the present time with documentaries and news reports such as Armes Deutschland – Stempeln oder Abrackern (Poor Germany – Dole Or Drudgery), Hartz und Herzlich (reality programme about disadvantaged people in Mannheim) and Kleine Helden ganz groß – Wenn Kinder kämpfen müssen (Little Big Heroes – When Children Have To Fight). The talent show Curvy Supermodel – Echt. Nice. Curvy makes a stand against the slimness craze.

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