Super RTL’s Thorsten Braun


Between fast-changing consumption habits, tectonic shifts in financing models and managing the expectations of young, sometimes fickle audiences, the kids’ business has become remarkably adept at navigating change. As CEO of Germany’s leading commercial media group for kids, Thorsten Braun is managing these profound changes in the landscape by being firmly focused on transitioning Super RTL from a linear broadcaster to a multiplatform service serving audiences wherever they are. He tells TV Kids about the benefits of being wholly owned by RTL Group since early 2021, emerging opportunities on platforms like TikTok and Roblox and the importance of the company’s prosocial initiatives.

***Image***TV KIDS: How competitive is the children’s TV market in Germany?
BRAUN: It’s a very competitive market. We have four relevant players in the linear business. Three are ad-funded, and one is a public player, but there are many other options for kids to be entertained and to consume content. Digital platforms, like YouTube and all the streaming services, are also available in Germany. All of this brought us to the point that we had to reframe our strategy from a linear business to a multiplatform one.

TV KIDS: What role does Super RTL have in the market, and what sets it apart from the many other children’s channels and platforms?
BRAUN: We are the market leader, and our USP is our multi­platform approach. Next to linear TV, we invested a lot of money and resources in building a proper kids’ web operation. We launched a radio channel for children and families. We also invested in our TOGGO tour, which traveled through various cities in Germany during the summer and was attended by more than 500,000 people. In addition, we have a footprint in the retail business through our consumer-products operation. So, we serve a broad range of platforms and are the only German player to do so.

TV KIDS: Has Super RTL’s strategy changed since the RTL Group became its sole owner by buying Disney’s 50 percent stake in the channel?
BRAUN: It’s more about refining the strategy. With RTL as the 100 percent shareholder, we have more opportunities, especially in the tech and data segment, as well as regarding original productions. We recently gained a new responsibility for the kids’ section on the streaming service RTL+, to which we can bring years of experience with kids’ programming. Generally, our expertise is very much appreciated by our colleagues at RTL. I’m pleased to have this big ship behind me and on my side.

TV KIDS: Could you give examples of how children use the different services that Super RTL offers?
BRAUN: Our main approach is to lead kids through all the platforms, and especially to lead them to our owned and operated platforms, which is our linear channels, web and app service, and TOGGO Radio. We use third-party platforms like TikTok, YouTube and, in the future, Roblox, to give them an anchor point, but then inform them and guide them: “If you want to see more, please come to our environment.”

TV KIDS: You mentioned TOGGO Radio, which launched in 2020 during the pandemic. How has it been received?
BRAUN: We are super happy with TOGGO Radio. The plan behind this was to have usage from kids and their parents during times when they do not use video content, especially before school and after school. It’s incremental reach from our point of view. In the last quarter of 2021, we showed a growth of 200 percent in usage on the TOGGO Radio channel. And with this success, we invested in more audio experiences. We produced our first TOGGO song and web channels related to specific IPs and topics and worked on our distribution. In July 2022 alone, TOGGO Radio, including all web channels, reached 4.1 million listeners. Two years in a row we have won the most prestigious award in the German radio industry, this year even in the most important category—best morning show. This makes audio an important strategic pillar for future Super RTL and TOGGO operations.

TV KIDS: Tell us about your content investments.
BRAUN: We make a lot of investments in co-productions and buying shows. This year, we received approximately 1,000 new episodes of existing IP. The share of new content will be 50 percent as of this autumn. This is significantly more than usual. We are showing recent highlights such as Star Trek: Prodigy and Sesame Street Mecha Builders, as well as new seasons of top formats such as PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig and our original production Woozle Goozle. When we make acquisitions for the linear channels, we follow an all-rights strategy. We also acquire content only for our AVOD service and our SVOD service. The range becomes much broader as kids’ media usage goes in the same direction. So, we invest in the content, maintaining the infrastructure and building new touchpoints.

TV KIDS: Where do you see the need for increased marketing at Super RTL?
BRAUN: In the pandemic, we saw that TikTok had a huge interest from the kids. This has new relevance to us. We have to look at it from a content marketing point of view. So, we now work with influencers to tell kids on TikTok: “This is TOGGO, this is a cool experience; come into our world.” It’s the same as what we plan with Roblox. The goal is that if the kids think about entertainment, TOGGO is the first thing that comes to mind. Being top of mind is one of our key strategic pillars.

TV KIDS: What more can Super RTL do in the technology and data areas?
BRAUN: We are very well equipped in the data and tech area, especially since we are now 100 percent owned by RTL Group. The tech and data team at RTL is roughly 1,000 people. Insights for us are critical. Having this broader scope of people and knowledge directly in-house helps us—even if we know that kids’ data topics are not so easy to handle because of legal regulations. But we do have approved methods to find out what the kids are interested in, what is driving the usage and what is helping us to guide them.

TV KIDS: Super RTL is involved in prosocial initiatives. Why are these important?
BRAUN: We are the biggest kids’ entertainment house in Germany. With this comes great responsibility for the target group. That is why we run several prosocial initiatives.

First of all, we support the RTL Foundation, which helps children in various projects within Germany and around the world. In addition, we work with organizations like Media Smart and fragFINN (“ask Finn”), of which I’m the chairman of the board. Media Smart promotes media literacy and sensitivity toward advertising among schoolchildren, while fragFINN creates a protected web surfing space for children.

In the last year, we also started several working groups at Super RTL to make sure that important topics like diversity, climate, sustainability and mental health are represented in our content. This has become a core for us. When we produce or acquire new content, we consider how to include these dimensions. A recent example is GEOLINO TV, an educational format, which we launched with our colleagues from the publishing department.

TV KIDS: What challenges and opportunities do you see as you look ahead?BRAUN: Linear television is under pressure. The ratings for all kids’ channels in Germany are decreasing. That’s the most important challenge we are facing. The other is the fragmentation of media usage. However, with our multiplatform approach, we have a strategy that is working well. Wherever the kids are, we are there with the TOGGO brand. Besides, the cooperation with RTL enables us to look deeper into areas that, in the past, were not our focus, for example, streaming SVOD. We are mainly AVOD across all platforms, but we can orchestrate both ways. Last but not least, the merger with Gruner + Jahr brings new opportunities for collaborations in the kids’ publishing business.