Television replaces what is smell

Competition for ARD, ZDF & Co : Is Youtube the new television?

Traditional TV channels such as ZDF, RTL or Sat1 see themselves surrounded on at least three sides: by Pay TV (Sky), which has only recently become profitable in Germany, by the financially strong US streaming service Netflix, but also by YouTubers. The magic word here is Multi Channel Networks - in short: MCNs. In contrast to the orderly standard program of the set linear television with its endlessly worn formats, wild content is produced here for the young, faster, more flashy, cheaper. The broadcasters, with their lengthy, overpriced production processes and their outdated broadcasting mode, react with rather helpless attempts to adapt.

A seemingly endless number of channels is filled

MCNs are networks that bundle a more or less large number of Youtube channels under one roof and function in a similar way to publishers or record companies. They try to contract the most successful Youtubers - also called creators - to themselves. Much like TV production companies, MCNs have editorial offices, studios, cameramen, editors, and outfitters. In contrast to TV operation, however, it is not program rails that are filled, but an almost infinite number of channels that can be called up at any time.

Above all, it is important to build up the largest possible reach, because so-called "views" are the currency of media agencies today. It works a bit like Amazon: If a not yet so well known Youtuber starts a new channel, the network docks him to successful protagonists with similar content, whose fans the newcomer is recommended to fans. The network receives a contractually fixed share of the advertising revenue for its services.

The online video scene is growing

The online video scene is currently growing by leaps and bounds: MCNs are being traded as new mega-media companies. Twitter and Facebook compete with YouTube with their own offerings. Even large American Hollywood studios are hectically investing up to double-digit million amounts in large networks or taking them over entirely.

In Germany, ProSiebenSat1 operates its own MCN with Studio71, which the broadcaster has just turned into a global MCN as a result of the 82.8 million dollar (around 74.5 million euros) merger with the American network Collective Digital Studio in "Collective Studio 71" expands. And Endemol, the second largest television producer in the world after Fremantle Media, which belongs to the RTL Group, has been calling the “Endemol beyond” network its own for three years. And the advertising industry is also jumping on the bandwagon: the outdoor advertising marketer Ströer has a majority stake in the “TubeOne” network.

Berlin attracts companies as the "digital capital"

Studio71 has settled in the third back courtyard of the Josettihöfe in Berlin-Mitte. "It was important not to integrate an innovative, dynamic topic like an MCN quite so closely into the corporate structures," says the 36-year-old managing director Sebastian Weil, which is why the decision was made to go to the "digital capital Berlin" at the time, and where with MyVideo and Ampya, two ProSiebenSat1 digital companies, were already based. Today Studio71 has around 180 channels with around 270 million views. One of the biggest scoops was the signing of Germany's most successful Youtuber Gronkh. The 38-year-old is a star of the gamer scene, his videos generate view numbers in the double-digit million range, which should also have made him a millionaire in real life. A big advantage is that Studio71 is looked after by ProSiebenSat1's own marketer SevenOne Media, who has access to all major brands and for whom, conversely, now opens the doors for advertising on high-reach online videos and with well-known Youtubers.

Nevertheless, Sebastian Weil does not see MCNs as competitors to television, but rather as a complement. “It is by no means the case that the younger generation does not feel like watching television,” he says. “When we put Youtubers on TV, the community thinks it's great. There is a lot of appreciation behind it, they say: Wow, now you have arrived on the big television, and most web stars are also very excited about it. "

At the same time, the network is also a scouting platform. “We discover new faces, can test new formats, we also learn new things in production and can also transfer this to our core business, TV. I am firmly convinced that we will still be watching television intensively in ten years' time. And when the young target group gets older and has a job, finds themselves in different life situations and starts a family, they are more likely to use the remote control and not just look for clips in lean-forward mode. "

Will Youtube replace television?

Georg Ramme, Managing Director of Endemol beyond, is sitting in his office less than five kilometers away and sees it similarly. The company works on a former factory site on Stralauer Allee in Berlin, where the burned-out music channels MTV and Viva are also located. It also has offices in the USA, Great Britain, France, Italy and Spain with a total of 230 employees. "Addressing and interacting with users are essential components on YouTube," explains the 41-year-old. “For example, students come home, check their Facebook accounts, and then they watch two hours of YouTube videos. This reflects their world, it's about homework, puberty and love problems, make-up, style, etc., and you give your comments, which is rather annoying on the TV. And then at some point you turn off Youtube and watch a series on television. “Youtube is part of media consumption and will not replace television, he believes. However, linear television has reached its limits and people will increasingly watch non-linear, Netflix and the like. It has nothing to do with YouTube.

The WDR tries with "# 3sechzich"

For the German producer landscape, the new country is not yet a real gold mine. Most of them find it difficult to produce suitable formats for Youtube & Co. The biggest mistake is that most of them produce the same content as for television, just a little shorter, says Ramme. You can also find producers who are not that successful on television and then try it on YouTube. “The content is different, the function of the content is different, the formats work differently and the storytelling is different than in traditional television. You have to learn that first. "

In January, the WDR launched the YouTube channel “# 3sechzich”, with which it does not want to target teenagers, but rather 20 to 30-year-olds - which it has not yet succeeded in doing with just over 3000 subscribers. The media critic Stefan Niggemeier found the offer unsuccessful from the start and on his blog, one of the biggest misunderstandings of the makers “seems to be the belief that the success of Youtubers is based on the fact that they talk, gesticulate and talk in a certain way cut, and you just have to copy it. "

Broadcasters should concentrate on their core business

Imagine if "Süddeutsche Zeitung" or "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" had Dr. Summer stories from “Bravo” printed in the political section to attract young readers. Doesn't work. Therefore, broadcasters should focus on their core business of high quality television games, documentaries, reports and news and stop chasing after the boys hysterically. Because they are getting older too. Their lives change, their tastes, their interests. You will be less on YouTube and sit back after a busy day and look forward to a well-done series or in-depth news without faxing. Everything has it's time. Stay cool.

- The text is an excerpt from an essay that has just been published in the “Jahrbuch Fernsehen”, published by the Institute for Media and Communication Policy and the Grimme Institute.

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