November 2019

Claude Schmit: ‘A children’s channel needs to have news’

11/15/2019, Cologne

2019 is one of the best years in the company’s history for the Cologne-based children’s channel Super RTL. The company has long since been successful online and in the licensing business as well. At a press conference, Managing Director, Claude Schmit, announced the channel’s first dedicated news service for children. It is scheduled to launch in spring.

The eyes of the television industry are trained on the launch of new streaming services such as Apple TV+ or Disney+ – but quite unimpressed by this, the Cologne children’s channel Super RTL is experiencing one of the best years in its almost 25-year history. This is possible because Super RTL has long since gone beyond being a traditional children’s channel and is now a “content hub” that distributes its content a number of equally weighted channels, as Claude Schmit, the company’s Managing Director and Germany’s longest-serving TV channel boss, explained at a press briefing on Tuesday evening. Schmit also announced the channel’s first dedicated news service for children, which is to launch in spring. And there is also to be a separate podcast offering soon.

The market share of front-runner Super RTL in the children’s demographic has averaged 21.8 percent in the year to date, with public-service broadcaster Kika as the runner-up with 17.9 percent. Nickelodeon brings up the rear at 6.4 percent, behind the Disney Channel with 13.1 percent, but Claude Schmit expects that the latter now faces the Disney Plus streaming platform as its biggest – and homegrown – competitor.

The market leader’s strong position is also reflected in its advertising revenues. Claude Schmit reports that they have risen by an whopping ten percent this year, in an overall stagnating market. “We were able to achieve this growth because we are quite simply the strongest children’s channel on the market,” said Schmit, who announced that the channel would be posting the third-highest profits in its history for the 2019 financial year. He said that the channel’s primetime programming, i.e. the broadcasting slot from 8.15 p.m. on, with programs aimed at adult viewers, also played a part in this. It grow both its viewer numbers and its advertising revenues.

Meanwhile, like all other children’s channels, Super RTL is seeing declining viewer numbers for its daytime children’s programming, where both viewership and advertising reach are declining in equal measure. To compensate for this expected decline, Claude Schmit and his team have long since moved beyond focusing solely on linear television. Two years ago, the broadcaster had already announced the content hub strategy mentioned above, in which linear television is just another channel, on par with proprietary online offerings such as Toggo and Toggolino, online offers from partners including TV Now and Youtube, and the rapidly growing licensing business. In the latter case, Super RTL, with popular brands like “Paw Patrol” and “Peppa Pig,” has since risen to become Germany’s leading licensing agency, ahead of Disney and Lucas (“Star Wars”), which both belong to the same group, i.e. Disney.

Super RTL’s digital offerings, especially its apps, are also showing strong growth. The number of children who use one of Super RTL’s digital offers increased from 1.1 million at the beginning of the year to 1.43 million in October. The Toggolino app launched in January alone already has 337,000 users. After several years of experimentation with various online offerings, Super RTL will soon bundle its existing six apps into one, says Boris Bolz, Chief Digital & Marketing Officer. “Toggo will become the gateway to everything,” Bolz announced.

Super RTL’s content strategy follows a principle that Claude Schmit says has repeatedly proven its worth for the channel: “We want to be where the kids are,” says the Managing Director. And these days, the kids are no longer only to be found watching linear TV, but increasingly also on major platforms like YouTube, which is why Super RTL massively expanded its activities here. In July 2018, the channel began distributing its content on YouTube, partly because of the realization, says Schmit, that “they were there already anyway.” Today, Super RTL content on Youtube generates 27 million views per month, meaning that, in Germany, the channel has already caught up to the leading providers of children’s content on this platform. Super RTL wants to ratchet this up to 40 million monthly views within the coming year. “Our goal is clear, we want to become the market leader on YouTube as well,” says Boris Bolz.

A new content offer from Super RTL, which the channel will be distributing across all channels, might help: Super RTL’s first-ever news magazine for 6- to 9-year-old children. “Täglich Toggo” (Toggo Daily) is the working title of the eleven-minute weekdaily format, which is scheduled to launch in spring. The magazine will be produced in cooperation with Mediengruppe RTL’s news specialist, Infonetwork. “There is a societal desire to take a look at the complex events of our world from a child’s perspective,” says Martin Gradl, Content Director at Super RTL. Parents and teachers have also repeatedly approached the channel with this request. Under the heading “Laugh more, see more, understand more,” Super RTL aims to help children put news in context and provide background information on the events. The focus is on a child-friendly presentation. For instance, there will be 3D models of buildings that the presenters can walk around, and from which they will even be able to fold out sections. And when correspondents in other countries are brought onscreen, this will be shown in the form of a smartphone screen, a very familiar sight for today’s children. Probably unprecedented in the channel’s history is the certainty, even at this early stage, “that we won’t be making any money with ‘Täglich Toggo’ – on the contrary”, says Claude Schmit. “But these days, a full-scale program lineup for children simply needs to have news, too,” says the channel boss.

By contrast, the channel’s new series and formats, some of which Martin Gradl also presented, will probably be more economically rewarding. For example, Super RTL is bringing the “Toggo Show,” developed for its online offerings, to television as well. Starting Jan 18, the “Toggo Show” will be on every Saturday and Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m., a “boring time for kids,” according to Gradl. Super RTL has also secured the rights to the first “Playmobil Original,” a format called “Novelmore,” which Gradl promises will be “a ‘Game of Thrones’ for kids.” The special will be broadcast on 22 November as an exclusive world premiere. In primetime, Super RTL sets out to capture adult audiences with the new French crime series “Caïn.” And beyond linear television, Super RTL has teamed up with the Bertelsmann Audio Alliance and is working on its own audio offering for children, on which,  however, no details have yet been divulged. The strategic goal that Managing Director Schmit plans to achieve with the content hub strategy is clear: “From TV to apps, Youtube, and merchandising, we want to be the advertising industry’s one-stop shop,” says Schmit. For this is the only way to ensure that revenues will continue to come streaming in as they did this year – no matter on which channel. (Source BENET)