Company InfoZDF Studios was founded in 1993 as a commercial subsidiary of ZDF, one of the largest TV broadcasters in Europe. Headquartered in Mainz, the group is responsible for global program distribution and acquisition, international co-productions, and merchandising of successful program brands under its own name, for ZDF and third parties. In a strong alliance of 30 direct and indirect subsidiary and associated companies in the business areas of production, distribution and services, ZDF Studios has the largest German-speaking program inventory… Read more
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Dr. Markus SchäferPresident & CEO
Robert FrankeVP Drama
Ralf RückauerVP Unscripted
Peter LangVP Junior
ZDF Studios Strengthens Value Proposition & Offers Something for Every Partner
ZDF Studios’ value proposition to the market has become much clearer, according to Dr. Markus Schäfer, president and CEO. “ZDF Studios is a fully integrated media group, from creation to production and exploitation,” he says. “In this regard, we see ourselves in the same bracket as other studios. We are not just a distribution business, which is our heritage, but we really cover the full value chain and appeal to a much broader range of partners in the international market.”
The ZDF Studios group consists of a multitude of companies across three business areas: production, distribution and services. “We cover all major genres, from documentary to entertainment and scripted,” Schäfer adds. “We are a multi-site group with premises all across Germany, and we also have footprints in the Netherlands and the U.K. Last but not least, our shareholder, ZDF, is one of Europe’s largest broadcasters.”
Regarding its offering for the international market, Schäfer outlines: “innovative, outstanding, high-quality programs.” He adds, “If you’ve got outstanding programs, you can attract excellent talent, which everybody wants to do in the market. We think we are a great place for talent to work, and we want to show that to the markets, be it here in Germany or elsewhere in the world. We value talent very highly and offer an inspiring creative environment with a huge amount of freedom for new and fresh ideas.”
As the company gears up for MIPCOM, it’s touting scripted highlights such as the surveillance drama Concordia, produced by Beta Film’s and ZDF Studios’ joint venture, Intaglio Films. The World Premiere Screening will take place on Tuesday, October 17, at 6 p.m. in the Grand Auditorium of the Palais des Festivals and is open to all market delegates. The premiere will be followed by a Q&A with Emmy Award-winning showrunner and executive producer Frank Doelger (Game of Thrones, The Swarm, John Adams, Rome) and cast members, including International Emmy Award winner Christiane Paul (Counterpart, In July) and Ruth Bradley (Ted Lasso, Humans). The six-parter—produced for ZDF, France Télévisions, Hulu Japan and MBC—is shot in English across various European locations. It is jointly distributed globally by Beta Film and ZDF Studios, following their collaboration on the hit series The Swarm.
Regarding factual highlights, Namibia’s Natural Wonders marks the latest not-to-be-missed wildlife and nature documentary from ZDF Studios. The two-part doc is produced by ZDF Studios’ affiliated company Doclights in association with ORF and ARTE.
There are five new episodes in Mega Building Collection, produced by Pernel Media in association with RMC Découverte and ZDF Studios. The series offers insights into groundbreaking achievements in technology and engineering.
There’s a new season of Ancient Apocalypse, produced by World Media Rights for ZDF Studios and ZDFinfo, providing insights into the downfall of some of history’s greatest empires.
As for highlights for young audiences, there’s a bevy of new offerings. “Both live action and animation are always timeless in kids’ programming, and our catalog is full of popular shows in both genres,” Schäfer says.
At MIPJunior, ZDF Studios is unveiling the animated preschool series Sam and Julia, produced in real-time animated 3D with stop-motion style by Cielo Films and Superswiss Red in co-production with ZDF, ZDF Studios, France Télévisions, Caribara and Mark 13.
The company will also launch season two of its live-action series Theodosia with an additional 26 episodes, produced by Cottonwood Media and co-production partners ZDF, ZDF Studios, Max and Globo.
Tobie Lolness, a brand-new animation from Tant Mieux Productions based on the novel by Timothée de Fombelle (which has sold over 1,000,000 copies and was published in 30 countries), is also being launched. Schäfer calls it a “coming-of-age story of adventure, heroism, friendship and survival, with a powerful environmental message, set in a miniature world. We are convinced that our loveable animation will be just as successful as the book.”
All of these new highlights “are excellent examples of the great quality that can be achieved when experts and talents from different countries join forces to create something together that will work internationally,” Schäfer adds.
“We have also made very good progress in building new businesses alongside our B2B business with broadcasters and streamers. We now have strong and growing B2C or B2B2C businesses, which deliver a constantly growing contribution to our overall revenue mix. Looking ahead, we believe we will become an even more interesting partner in the international market for both sides of the business, for buyers as well as creative and production partners.”
Schäfer notes that at this MIPCOM, “the ubiquitous topic of artificial intelligence will also be relevant for us. Thus, in addition to our classic topics of purchasing, sales and co-production, we cordially invite everybody with good ideas to talk to us at ZDF Studios or to our production companies about investments and distribution. So, let’s get in touch!”
ZDF Studios: Covering the Full Value Chain
Apart from ZDF Studios’ usual sprawling catalog full of high-quality programs with proven success in international territories, the company has made very good progress in building new businesses alongside its B2B dealings with broadcasters and streamers. “We now have strong and growing B2C or B2B2C businesses, which deliver a constantly growing contribution to our overall revenue mix,” says Dr. Markus Schäfer, president and CEO of ZDF Studios.
On top of that, the ZDF Studios Group’s value proposition to the market has become much clearer since last year’s rebranding, Schäfer says. “We operate more than 30 direct and indirect subsidiaries and affiliates in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K., spanning TV production, distribution and services. The companies of the ZDF Studios Group cover the entire value chain from the development of scripted and unscripted TV content to production, marketing and monetizing, including TV and streaming licenses as well as merchandising and online rights.”
The new brand—having changed from ZDF Enterprises to ZDF Studios—helped to convey the message to the market that the company is not just a distribution business, “which is our heritage, but we really cover the full value chain,” says Schäfer. “As such, we appeal to a much broader range of partners in the international market.”
There’s some standout premium drama on offer from the company, including the eco-thriller The Swarm, produced by Frank Doelger (Game of Thrones) and ndF International Production’s managing director, Eric Welbers, and based on Frank Schätzing’s international bestseller. Chronicling the struggle of humankind against an unknown enemy demonstrating swarm intelligence that lives in the depths of the sea, the series is distributed jointly by ZDF Studios and Beta Film.
Clean Sweep is a new thriller drama that premiered on Sundance Now in the U.S. and RTÉ in Ireland. It stars the award-winning Irish actress Charlene McKenna as a housewife and mother of three, married to a Garda detective, who kills her former partner in crime when he threatens to expose her dark past. The series is inspired by true events.
Dear Vivi, written and produced by Natalie Scharf, is part crime thriller and part drama. It tells the tragic story of a seemingly perfect German family whose world falls to pieces when the father suddenly kills his wife in the heat of the moment and ends up in custody awaiting trial. The series has set new records in the ZDFmediathek, German broadcaster ZDF’s online media library, and an average of 5.6 million people tuned in on TV, a 20 percent market share. The series has also gained record TikTok followers and fan edits: over 23,000 followers and half a million likes within three weeks of its launch.
In the way of factual highlights, ZDF Studios is presenting The Six Continents Revealed, spotlighting the geological and cultural-historical biography of the world, revealing how nature has shaped and influenced cultures. It uses realistic 3D animations to take viewers on a journey through time to experience drifting continental plates, sinking land masses, explosive volcanoes and raging storms.
From ZDF Studios affiliate doclights comes the wildlife one-off Bison—An American Icon, looking at an important figure of the North American wilderness.
From the Junior catalog, Spellbound is a high-concept series that combines ballet, magic, witchcraft and more, with diversity and inclusivity at the heart of the production.
Meanwhile, the live-action series Superhero Academy is aimed at 6- to 10-year-olds and features a mix of drama and comedy. It follows first-graders who attend a very unusual boarding school for future superheroes.
Targeting preschoolers, the 3D animated series Maari—Adventures at the Reef spotlights a young squid and her two best friends—Tuts the turtle and Fin the crab—as she solves problems in the Blue Bay Reef. The show features diversity and environmental protection as core themes.
Gearing up for the year to come, ZDF Studios plans to continue working on creating further synergies between the companies within its group, Schäfer says. “The positioning of ZDF Studios as an integrated media company enables the development of innovative, outstanding and high-quality programs and makes the Group an attractive workplace for German and international talent to flourish in a very inspiring and creative environment. Looking ahead, we believe we will become an even more interesting partner in the international market for both sides of the business, for buyers as well as creative and production partners.”
SHOWCASE: ZDF Studios Brings Out Broad, Appeal-Packed Slate
This summer, a new president and CEO took the mantle at ZDF Studios. Dr. Markus Schäfer, a former CEO of All3Media Deutschland, is now heading up the storied German company, which arrives at MIPCOM with a packed slate across drama, kids, factual and entertainment.
“Our diverse new slate for MIPCOM features a range of ambitious and high-caliber shows,” says Schäfer. “We are proud to be working with some of the world’s most gifted producers, alongside our own network of production companies, and are always open to meeting new international creative talents. We are looking forward to taking our new slate out at MIPCOM.”
From the ZDF Studios Drama catalog, Boundless—Magellan’s and Elcano’s Journey to the Edge of the Earth features an epic adventure, following the quest of Juan Sebastián Elcano and Ferdinand Magellan around the world after they set sail from Spain 500 years ago. Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Black Hawk Down) directs, and the cast boasts Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld) and Álvaro Morte (Money Heist). The event series features high production values and is shot in locales such as the Dominican Republic, Basque Country, Madrid and Seville.
Emmy Award winning-showrunner Frank Doelger (Game of Thrones) is behind The Swarm, based on Frank Schätzing’s international bestseller of the same name. The story follows as a group of scientists come together believing that there is an intelligent life force dwelling in the deep Arctic Ocean, capable of manipulating its environment, the ocean and everything that resides in it. They undertake a daring mission, manning a cutting-edge, technologically-engineered vessel to track it and go deep into the Arctic Ocean in search of this unknown menace. ZDF Studios and Beta Film are jointly distributing The Swarm.
The award-winning Irish actress Charlene McKenna (Bloodlands, Peaky Blinders, Vienna Blood) stars in the drama Clean Sweep. She plays Shelly Mohan, a housewife and mother of three married to a Garda detective (Barry Ward; Jimmy’s Hall, Blood Cells), who kills her former partner in crime when he threatens to expose her dark past. Inspired by actual events, it tells a compelling and relentless story of mothering and the price paid for long-buried sins.
In the unscripted arena, Surviving Hothouse Earth shines a light on the topic of global warming. The three-part doc investigates Earth’s distant past to understand its present and unravel its future, with each episode covering a separate issue: oceans, land and civilization. Cinematic shots of nature, landscapes and urban life are combined with interviews with international experts.
Sweeping aerial views are front and center in Africa from Above, which promises a fresh perspective of the continent. The ten-part series covers natural wonders and diverse habitats, provides a look at indigenous wild animals and celebrates the people who live and work in various countries. ZDF Studios will hold a screening of this impressive series at MIPCOM on Monday, October 17, from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. in the Auditorium A of the Palais des Festivals, followed by a Q&A with the experts involved in this production: Ralf Rückauer (VP Unscripted at ZDF Studios), Bo Stehmeier (CEO of Off the Fence), Friederike Haedecke (deputy head of department for History + Society at ZDF), Marcus Arthur (CEO of UKTV and president of BBC Studios U.K. and Ireland) and Wolfgang Bergmann (managing director of ARTE Germany and coordinator of ARTE for ZDF).
Taking a look back in history, War Gamers spotlights the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS or the Wrens). It tells the stories of how an all-female team was recruited to unpick how German U-boats were sinking so many British and American ships and how they even devised tactics to defeat them.
ZDF Studios recently added to its catalog the format Quiz Hunt. It sees players compete in a life-sized board game where, in order to move forward, the two contestants—one being the winner from the previous round—have to answer questions correctly. The show has already proven to be a hit on ServusTV, where it occupies a 5 p.m. slot and has achieved average ratings of 7.9 percent this year.
For the youngest set of viewers, ZDF Studios is presenting Grisù, about a little dragon who dreams of becoming a firefighter. From Mondo TV and Toon2Tango, the show’s animated protagonist is able to draw on his heroic spirit and never gives up.
Another highlight from the Junior slate, Törtle centers on a tortoise who grew up in a pet shop, though he is neither a pet nor a wild animal. In every episode, Törtle gets caught up in the culture clash between humans and animals but always emerges as the unexpected hero.
In Mimo & Leva—Back to the Bronze Age, two kids with different paths in life (and other plans from what those predetermined paths are!) experience exciting adventures, overcome outdated traditions and forge their own futures. The animated series takes young viewers back in history.
SHOWCASE: ZDF Studios—New Name, Same Top-Flight Quality
MIPTV is the first market for the just-rebranded ZDF Studios. The name change—from ZDF Enterprises, which it was founded as in 1993—expresses more precisely and accurately what the company does today.
“We are a large licensing company selling and co-producing content as well as acquiring rights,” explains Fred Burcksen, president and CEO. “On the other hand, we are a major production group, a studio that is responsible for creating national and international TV content. We get involved right at the early stages—taking an idea, developing it, producing it and then successfully marketing the show.”
ZDF Studios consists of around 30 subsidiaries and affiliated companies. Its partners include public and private television broadcasters, independent producers and streaming platforms. “We are today one of the largest media companies in Europe,” Burcksen says. “We cordially invite anybody with good ideas to talk to us at ZDF Studios or to our production companies about investments, sales and distribution. So please get in touch!”
The ZDF Studios slate spans many genres, with drama being a particularly strong area. Its latest scripted offerings include the suspense-filled Stories to Stay Awake. “Chicho Ibáñez Serrador’s Stories to Stay Awake revolutionized the Spanish television landscape back in the ’60s,” says Burcksen. “And now, more than 50 years later, it returns to transform it once again.”
The rebooted series features as directors the genre talents Rodrigo Cortés, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Paula Ortiz and Paco Plaza, who “continue in the tradition of the iconic series to explore new cinematic language and unique film narratives,” says Burcksen. “The resurrection of the legendary Spanish horror series entails four stand-alone episodes that give homage to the past and are on the cutting edge of the future.”
Also in the drama catalog, White Night follows a family struggling to cope with an imbalance of power wielded by a person who is no longer alive, interwoven with a murder mystery. The story takes place over two parallel time periods: the 1970s and the present day.
ZDF Studios is also home to a bevy of documentary fare, with history and natural history standing strong. “Breathtaking nature films are always in fashion and, thankfully, there is a new trend for documentaries aimed at raising ecological awareness,” says Burcksen, highlighting the ten-part Africa from Above. The wildlife and nature series takes viewers on a high-flying journey above the continent along with expert conservationists, adventurers and extreme athletes. It also celebrates the people who live and work in various countries—from vibrant cities to deep in the African bush—and explores their history, architecture, engineering and industries. Burcksen calls it an “uplifting and visually captivating series that shows the remarkable diversity of the continent.”
The 90-minute Going Circular explores the concept of circularity, an economic system based on the idea that nothing should go to waste. The film tells the story of four visionaries from around the world, whose thinking shapes and informs the concept of circularity: 102-year-old inventor Dr. James Lovelock, biomimicry biologist Janine Benyus, engineer and designer Arthur Huang and financier John Fullerton. “The extraordinary experiences of these very different people changed the way they think about humanity’s future,” Burcksen says. “Through the deeply personal transformation of each visionary profiled, the film Going Circular explores concrete solutions that individuals and communities are using to move toward a more circular society, rethinking everything from our food, cities and financial system to even our fashion industry.”
There’s also a robust roster of kids’ content within the ZDF Studios portfolio. “Animation and live action are always in fashion and, luckily, we have a large catalog of it!” Burcksen says.
Highlights include the animated series Pettson and Findus, about an old, inventive farmer and his loyal but impudent cat. It is based on a children’s book series by Sven Nordqvist. “At MIPTV, we are presenting 26 brand-new episodes, full of creative, heartwarming and enjoyable stories,” Burcksen says.
In the way of live action, Theodosia transports its young viewers to the year 1905, following the 14-year-old daughter of two Egyptologists excavating in the Valley of the Kings. The show is shot in a cinematic style in France and Belgium.
“Within the ZDF Studios group, we cover every step in the development of great content—from the first idea to production, marketing and successful distribution,” Burcksen says. “We are putting an emphasis on our network and working more closely together as a group, rather than individual companies, using our individual expertise in the best possible way. This will be to the benefit of all of us, the group, the affiliates and, of course, our clients and partners.”
ZDF Studios was founded in 1993 as a commercial subsidiary of ZDF, one of the largest TV broadcasters in Europe. Headquartered in Mainz, the group is responsible for global program distribution and acquisition, international co-productions, and merchandising of successful program brands under its own name, for ZDF and third parties. In a strong alliance of 30 direct and indirect subsidiary and associated companies in the business areas of production, distribution and services, ZDF Studios has the largest German-speaking program inventory in the world and an ever-growing offering of international productions, comprising series and miniseries, TV films, documentaries and children’s programs. The ZDF Studios Group offers a comprehensive full service in the business areas B2B, B2C and B2B2C, where it covers every step in the process of creating and utilizing successful productions, from content development through production to the marketing of TV licenses, merchandising and online rights and much more. The integrative power of ZDF Studios allows for the development of innovative, outstanding, high-quality programs and makes the alliance an attractive workplace for German and international talent, providing an inspiring and creative environment and ample freedom for new and fresh ideas.
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