SWR’s Philipp Bitterling


The ARD (Association of Public Broadcasting Corporations in the Federal Republic of Germany) comprises nine autonomous regional broadcasters that serve Germany’s 16 federal states. SWR is among the nine broadcasters. Philipp Bitterling, head of development and scheduling, tells TV Formats about what the team will be looking for at MIPCOM with regard to entertainment.

***Image***TV FORMATS: What’s guiding SWR’s entertainment strategy at present?
BITTERLING: In the world of German TV, we’re all about giving folks a good and valuable time, and we do it in line with the “Rundfunkstaatsvertrag” (that’s like the Big Broadcasting Rulebook). Now, we aren’t just about any old show. We’re all about stuff that doesn’t just tickle your funny bone but also makes you think. We love a bit of playful banter and humor. That’s why we’re big fans of factual entertainment or docutainment. It’s like learning stuff, but with a twist—it keeps a bigger bunch of folks interested than if we just talked about serious stuff all day. Entertainment is how we get to the heart of the public’s questions. We’re trying to reach everyone in Germany, but we’ve got a soft spot for those aged 30 to 50. These days, TV isn’t their go-to for entertainment. That’s why we put our money on our VOD platform, the ARD Mediathek. It’s where the future is at.

TV FORMATS: Tell us about some of SWR’s successful format adaptations.
BITTERLING: We are producing a second season of Down the Road, a heartwarming and very successful coming-of-age series, following six teenagers with Down syndrome as they experience their first traveling adventure in the southwest of Germany. Upcoming, there’s Feuer & Flamme, an adaptation of the Israeli format Local Heroes. This is an exceptional series that provides an up-close experience of the work of firefighters in Heidelberg.

TV FORMATS: Do you require a solid track record before you evaluate a format for adaptation on SWR?
BITTERLING: Absolutely; that’s crucial. No one would buy a pig in a poke. When investing in licensing, the intention is not only to save on development costs but also to minimize the risk of failure. A track record always includes the certainty that the format is thoroughly developed, going beyond a mere idea. Everyone has more or less refined ideas every day; a proven success holds a significantly greater value.

TV FORMATS: What’s on your wish list for entertainment and format acquisitions at present?
BITTERLING: Like everyone else, we have many offers on the table. Value-added content is important to us. The offering must genuinely stand out, be distinctive, have a unique twist and not have been seen before. We’re searching for gold nuggets, and in October, we’ll also be digging for them at MIPCOM.

TV FORMATS: Are you looking more for prime time, access prime, daily strip?
BITTERLING: In terms of television, we’re seeking offerings more geared toward daytime. On our VOD platform, we focus on our white spots. There, we remain curious to explore special factual entertainment and reality approaches.

TV FORMATS: As part of a public broadcasting system, how do entertainment and formats fit in with SWR’s wider programming mandate?
BITTERLING: Entertainment helps us reach all people. Entertainment is maximally inclusive in its approach, while the content itself remains highly variable. Ultimately, entertainment assists us in fulfilling our role as a public-service broadcaster.