FRAPA’s latest membership coup comes in the form of the influential German Producers Alliance, whose 200 or so members represent approximately 80% of the turnover of German production companies working in animation, feature film, TV drama, TV entertainment and advertising.
It promises to be a symbiotic relationship. For the next year, FRAPA will acquire a strong partner with considerable lobbying clout within Germany, not to mention a network of contacts whose tentacles stretch into every area of German production. The Producers Alliance, meanwhile, hopes that FRAPA’s international traction will propel it closer to its goal of better European format protection, which will in turn favourably influence the unsatisfactory situation in German.
Oliver Castendyk, a director of the Producers Alliance, elaborates: “German television stations accept a format only if it is developed and offered to them by a foreign licensor. It’s a deplorable fact that a German producer who has developed a format will not, as a rule, receive a format fee. Exceptions to the rule are made only if the producer invests heavily in pilots. Since it’s almost impossible for German producers to recoup their development investment, there’s very little incentive to invest in format creation. This situation, whereby foreign formats are structurally privileged, is deeply unfair from a German standpoint.”
German copyright law is a major culprit in this respect, Castendyk adds: “Formats are not yet protected by copyright and their protection under Germany’s unfair-competition law is at least insecure. The Producers Alliance believes that, if we want to promote German creativity and grow our trade in new formats, it’s essential these legal issues are resolved.”
As for the challenges confronting German format producers in today’s increasingly harsh market, Castendyk runs through an all-to-familiar litany of brutal cost-cutting, plummeting ad revenues and soaring costs. “When advertising revenue nose-dived in 2008, television executives told our members that they had to provide basically the same service for 30% less,” he says. “And this pressure has not yet ended. One way out of this squeeze between supply and demand is to look at sharing skills and models. In this respect, I believe formats can play a crucial role.”