Germany Filmed Entertainment Industry
Given its high standard of living and large population, many of whom speak English, Germany is a large market for filmed entertainment from abroad.
Introduction to the German Filmed Entertainment & Streaming Market
Given its high standard of living and large population, many of whom speak English, Germany is a large market for filmed entertainment from abroad. Germany’s top grossing films are consistently Hollywood productions with a plethora of opportunities for international co-productions and funding. It should be noted, however, that COVID-19 has changed the film industry in Germany, perhaps permanently, as it has everywhere else. Many movie theaters have struggled to survive even with government support and there has been a mass migration of German viewers to streaming platforms which has inspired the development of German and internationally co-produced streaming platforms to compete with the likes of the most popular platforms at this time, Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Current Market Trends
As a result of COVID-19, SVOD and TVOD experienced an unprecedented growth across all age groups of 16.8 percent in 2020 while naturally movie theaters have experienced an extreme drop in sales. Regardless of whether German movie theaters survive past the pandemic, the growth trend in SVOD and TVOD began well before the pandemic and is especially strong for younger viewers. This shift is likely to have permanent repercussions on the industry, with many producers now selling directly to SVOD platforms. There is also an uptick in originally produced content by VOD platforms.
Current Market Demand
With 432 channels and revenue of $7.51 billion in 2020, television is still very popular in Germany and remains one of the most favored types of media. In 2019, almost 70 percent of the German population watched TV with the leading TV reception types being cable and satellite TV. On average, Germans daily TV viewing time across age groups amounted to roughly three and a half hours a day. Meanwhile, children aged between three and thirteen years old spent just over an hour watching television. Smart-TVs have experienced small growth with about 4.9 million devices sold in 2017. However, they now make up 81 percent of total TV sales in Germany. News, sports, and travel shows make up the three most popular genres of German television.
DVD users and well as movie-theater goers have steadily declined since 2015. More and more Germans are choosing to consume series and movies through the internet. There is a large, American-dominated streaming market in Germany with 9.7 million active SVOD users in Germany as of 2019. According to Statista, Amazon Prime Video was the SVOD provider most often paid for in Germany in 2019 however both Netflix (26.8 percent of market share) and Amazon (25.4 percent of market share) are equally used by consumers. The closest German competition in streaming platforms is Maxdome with a market share of only 3.5 percent in 2019. However, in 2019 the platform Joyn was launched by U.S. TV provider Discovery and Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 which offers 55 live channels as well as exclusive content. More such co-operations on streaming platforms in Germany are expected to follow including originally produced content.
Of the net total of 37.5 percent of Germans who use streaming services, the most cited reason for doing so is viewing flexibility. Specific to online content, German’s top-rated genres in 2020 were comedy, documentaries, thriller/mystery/crime, science fiction and fantasy, and horror.
Nearly all foreign language shows and films in Germany are dubbed and most local content is produced in German. This said, with most Germans having a high-level of English and English often being used as the default language of graduate programs and business, many younger Germans choose to watch English-language content in its original language. Regardless of whether dubbed or watched in its original version, there is a high demand for English-language and specifically American-produced content. In 2020, the 20 most successful films in Germany were American productions originally produced in English. According to the German Federal Film Board (FFA), roughly 21.5 percent of cinema goers watched German films in 2019, leaving a large share of the market to international films.
Production Within Germany
Non-EU nationals require a visa for stays in Germany however a visa is not required for semi-annual visits of up to three months. If you intend to stay longer than 90 days, you are required to register at the local Standesamt – Einwohnermeldeamt (Registration Office) within one week of arrival.
A general shooting permit is required when filming on public roads and streets if any technical support, catering or camping vehicles are to be parked on or directly alongside public roads and streets (including sidewalks). This also applies to the setting up of spotlights, risers or camera rails. This general permit is prerequisite for all additional shooting permits. Proof of insurance and a declaration of exemption from liability need to be included with the application, along with information providing general applicant details (a downloadable version is available at www.bbfc.de). The application should be submitted at least 14 days prior to initial filming and is subject to additional regulations. The general shooting permit is granted for up to two years.
For importing and re-exporting professional equipment an ATA Carnet is required. It is issued from the German Chambers of Commerce (IHK) for all companies and natural persons that are located in the region which the Chambers are responsible for. Instead of an ATA Carnet, a surety can be presented as a security for the imported goods. A customs guarantor licensed by the country is responsible for the surety. In this case, the import duties have to be deposited at the customs authorities in cash.
With regards to regulations for filming during the pandemic, according to advisory statements from the Producer Alliance of Germany (Produzentenallianz) the containment measures taken internationally, at the European level, by the federal, state and local governments, such as quarantine regulations, entry restrictions and the restrictions on national and international air and travel traffic, make it largely impossible to predictably produce films or other forms of commercial communication at this time. Therefore, it is currently recommended to postpone all current filming and similar production projects. If not postponed, current regulations set out by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) have to be followed. In particular, the following points must be observed: Special requirements for room occupancy, provision and use of mouth-nose protection or FFP2 masks instead of mouth-nose covering, and special requirements for office workplaces. These regulations are undergoing regular updates as the situation develops, therefore it is recommended to regularly check the website of BMAS for updates: https://www.bmas.de/EN. The latest provisions specific to the film industry can be found here (in German): https://medien.bgetem.de/medienportal/artikel/UzMwMA—
Trade Barriers & Intellectual Property Rights
Regarding trade barriers, pursuant to the German Film Law (FFG), companies exploiting feature films must pay a legally binding proportion of their revenues to the FFA. This so-called “film levy” finances all of the FFA’s funding measures and must be paid by the exhibitors, the video industry, the broadcasters as well as the program providers. This levy can range between 1.8-3 percent.
Film co-productions in Germany are treated as co-productions for local tax audits. Co-productions are treated as separate tax subjects and are no longer included in the overall annual results of the individual production companies. This leads to additional bureaucratic expenditure and results in a minimum taxation of loss-making productions, thus resulting in a capping of loss offsetting possibilities. This regulation thwarts the Federal Government and the German States’ film funding efforts and has made Germany increasingly unappealing as a co-production location.
With regards to IPR, several general principles are important for effective protection of intellectual property rights in the EU. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. Second, IP may be protected differently in the EU than in the United States. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in the EU under local laws. For example, your U.S. trademark, design, and patent registrations will not protect you in the EU without further registrations in the corresponding regional or local level.
When considering potential partners in Germany, it is always advisable to conduct due diligence. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully, however, whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Projects and sales in the EU require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with the EU laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.
There are several opportunities for federal and regional grants for international co-productions.
On a federal level, non-repayable grants for the production of theatrical films are available under the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), provided by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM). BKM also provides approx. EUR 30 million each year via several subsidy schemes and prizes. Nearly one-third of DFFF funding has historically gone to international co-productions. Additionally, the German Federal Film Board (FFA) grants film production funding under the German Film Subsidies Act (FFG) by way of limited recourse. Furthermore, producers may benefit from the economic success of their previous film by way of applying to the FFA for reference funds, which are disbursed as grants. Finally, since 2016, production funding for theatrical films as well as for TV series is also available under the new scheme of the German Ministry of Economics, the German Motion Picture Fund (GMPF). In order to receive any of these grants, applicants must meet requirements regarding where the film is first released, dubbing in the German language, and the percentage of total production costs of each co-producer. DFFF, GMPF, and FFA funding under the FFG are all administered by the FFA.
In addition, almost every German state maintains a regional film and TV subsidy scheme. Most provide regional production funding in the form of limited recourse loans, which must be repaid from certain proceeds of the exploitation of the film or TV project.
Trade Events (local and International, as relevant)
Note: Due to COVID-19, dates are subject to change.
Name and date of event: European Film Market 2022 TBD
Location: Berlin, Germany
English language website: https://www.efm-berlinale.de/en/home/homepage.html
Description: Over a period of eight days, around 10,000 representatives of the international film and media industries, primarily producers, buyers and sales agents, distributors and financiers, come together at one of the top three meeting places of the international film and media industries to network, exchange, inform themselves and do business.
Name and date of event: Hamburg International Short Film Festival June 1-7, 2021
Location: Hamburg, Germany
English language website: https://festival.shortfilm.com/
Description: Around 14,000 visitors attend annually to view the more than 400 films that compete in categories such as the International and German competitions, the experimental ‘Deframed’ competition, and the Three Minute Quickie competition.
Additional Market Research & Other Resources
Motion Picture Association National Trade Estimate Report:
PwC Global Media and Entertainment Outlook 2020-2024: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/tmt/media/outlook.html
Country Commercial Guide for Germany
For more information contact Tobias Wester, Head of Section Tobias.Weser@trade.gov. Phone: +49-69-7535-3159