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Stephan Schmitter: "It's a dream job"
RTL Deutschland celebrates five years of its corporate podcast with a new concept and a special anniversary episode with CEO Stephan Schmitter.

Where does RTL Deutschland currently stand? Where does the company want to go in the future? And how were Stephan’s first few weeks at the helm of RTL Deutschland? Stephan Schmitter answers these questions in the latest edition of RTL erleben – der RTL Deutschland Podcast (Experience RTL – the RTL Deutschland podcast), hosted by Thomas Steuer from RTL Deutschland’s Communications department.

In the podcast, Stephan talks about RTL Deutschland’s strategy, partnerships, artificial intelligence, NFL audience shares and what happened in Las Vegas. Although Stephan Schmitter has been with RTL Deutschland for most of his career, being responsible for the entire organisation is “a different challenge”. Stephan is very positive about his first few weeks as CEO – “Super! Fantastic!” – citing the success of Ich bin ein Star – Holt mich hier raus! and the Super Bowl as highlights, with Let’s Dance set to continue the trend. 

Stephan attended the 2024 Super Bowl in Las Vegas in person, describing the experience as “incredible in all aspects” and “an extraordinary 72 hours”. “Las Vegas is a special stage for a sporting event of this magnitude,” explains Stephan. With millions of people watching the Super Bowl in hotels, bars, restaurants and on the street, it felt like the “coming together of sport and entertainment”. Next up in Las Vegas is the 2024 Formula 1 Grand Prix on 24 November 2024, which RTL Deutschland will broadcast as part of its content partnership with Sky Deutschland.

The Super Bowl was the perfect finale for the launch of the NFL on RTL Deutschland’s channels. “We are absolutely thrilled about the confidence the fans have shown in us and the feedback we received,” says Stephan. RTL Deutschland achieved 30 per cent more viewers than in the previous season and, according to Stephan, “succeeded in attracting new fans, taking the community with us and retaining those new fans.” American football is popular both among younger fans – in particular young men – and in RTL Deutschland’s key commercial target group of 14- to 59-year-olds. “That’s why the NFL is an important lever for us to bring people back to linear TV,” explains Stephan. “We have a lot of potential here,” he adds, and the second NFL season will be approached with “the same passion” as the first season.

RTL Deutschland’s strategy is based on two pillars: Protect and Boost. With the viewership of linear TV decreasing, “Protect” refers to maximising linear usage – “we need the largest possible slice of an ever-shrinking pie,” as Stephan explains. Viewing habits are changing, and one of RTL Deutschland’s crucial questions for the future will be how to bridge the gap between the flagship channel RTL and the streaming service RTL+. “The people who are watching us on linear TV, who are important in terms of advertising sales, are getting older – we have to find a solution for this,” explains Stephan.

“Boost” therefore refers to RTL+, which needs to be maximised in a highly competitive environment to compete with the American streaming services. With strong growth in 2023 and the first two months of 2024, RTL+ aims to become the third most popular streaming service in Germany – alongside Amazon, Netflix and Disney. “We will put a lot of energy and effort into achieving this,” says Stephan. With 7,000 fantastic employees, RTL Group as “a shareholder who supports us 100 per cent” and 40 years of experience in making good programmes, Stephan believes the conditions for success are all in place. “We can be very positive, very self-confident and very clear in our approach,” believes Stephan. 

Partnerships will be key to this success, and “are the only way forward in this madness of content, licenses, audience and market situation,” believes Stephan. Alongside the partnership with Sky, RTL Deutschland is exploring partnerships in technology, advertising and content. Stephan explains that partners come to RTL Deutschland because it is a “relevant player that is prepared to think in a completely new and fresh way”.

As something that causes “fear and uncertainty” but also offers “incredibly possibilities and opportunities,” Stephan believes it is important to deal with AI openly. He sees many opportunities where work is standardised, for example in content editing and development, but acknowledges there are many legal questions. “I am firmly convinced we are doing this actively and trying to utilise AI for our own benefit, to gain experience and solve problems,” explains Stephan. RTL Deutschland has also experimented with using AI for more creative tasks – such as in Neue Geschichten vom Pumuckl (Pumuckl’s New Adventures) or a Christmas special of Unter uns (Among us). Stephan believes the future will be a “healthy mix of creative minds and creative genius on the human side” combined with “AI supporting this as much as possible and offering possibilities that don’t exist today”.

Contacts

Oliver Fahlbusch

Executive Vice President Communications & Investor Relations, RTL Group

+352 / 24 86 5200

oliver.fahlbusch@rtl.com

Irina Mettner-Isfort

Vice President Media & Investor Relations, RTL Group

+49 221 456 56410

irina.mettner.isfort@rtl.com