Germany Report
Cologne Conference: The Good and the Bad

First, the good news. The German TV industry couldn't have found a better place to stage a television event. The bad news: the Teutonics couldn't have asked a worse organization to set up a television event.

The Cologne setting for the 13th annual Cologne Conference and Screenings was perfect: a river view, airport convenience and hotel accommodations at the heart of what the government of North Rhine-Westphalia likes to call "Germany's television capital," since the Lander (or state) houses TV networks RTL, WDR, CBC, DW and VOX, among others.

The quality of the participants was also impressive, mostly top-level executives from the German entertainment industry, who, like all the other participants, received no assistance, no expense-paid invitations and no instructions from the organizers: all were on their own with a hearty viel Glück!

Officially, the number of participants reached the 6,000 mark; however, one was hard-pressed to find more than 1,000 at any given time. True, the event - which was first born as a conference, later added a festival and, three years ago, morphed into a short-lived market and is now back to being primarily a conference, with the screenings playing only a small part - has a multi-faced and multi-placed nature, which at one point could have produced a higher cumulative peak. But on an average day, the number was estimated to be as that indicated above.

The whole event was staged in five different venues: the Filmhouse for homages, the Cinedom for the opening ceremony and the Komed for the festival parts (all within the Mediapark complex); the Ms. Loreley boat (above) for the roundtables and various parties; and the Rheinterrassen for the seminars (top).

Even though it was labeled an Internationales Fernseh und Filmfest, the roundtables were in German and only some seminars were offered with simultaneous English translations. Of the 36 total speakers, only four were from the U.K. (including Granada's Paul Jackson) and two were from France. For the "Screenings on Demand," or what remained of the previous market with booths, 69 companies paid to have tapes of their shows available on demand, with the majority being from Germany (15 companies), followed by the U.S. (13) including CBS, NBC, Universal, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox; the U.K. (12) including BBC Worldwide; France (11); and Canada (4) including Alliance Atlantis. The screenings were held in a small, poorly attended room on the aforementioned boat using 17 monitor-players.
Officially, the organizers of the Cologne Conference and Screenings are the state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) and the NRW's Media Institute, in cooperation with the city of Cologne. However, the practical aspects of the event are farmed out to HMR, a Cologne-based consultancy company that did their best to make the event inhospitable, very unfriendly, and with a staff that looked upset. Surely not a good image for the state of North Rhine Westphalia, which has invested more than any other German state in the creation of Cologne as Deutschlands Fernehhaupstadt.

To stop in its tracks the Cologne Conference's TV market ambitions, were the organizers of the annual and much older German Screenings: a strictly screenings-only event with no other distractions, such as conferences, for some 100 international buyers who, officially, come on their own, but unofficially, are invited expense-paid (at least if they are from the major territories).

Organized by German public TV networks ARD and ZDF, under the auspices of the umbrella marketing organization, German United Distributors, the nomadic German Screenings will be held November 30-December 4 at the Meridian Hotel in Munich.