Saturday, March 05, 2011

You Bet: "Wetten, dass ...?" in Palma

How many of you remember a TV show called "You Bet"? It was hosted, variously, by Brucie, the lovely Matthew Kelly and death-by-tabloid Darren Day. It was the British version of a show called "Wetten, dass ...?" that has run on German television since 1981.

"Wetten, dass ...?" is more than just a game show. It also features chat and music. It is meant to last a couple of hours but always overruns spectacularly. The show is more of an event than a mere TV programme. It airs irregularly, perhaps six times a year. It attracts higher viewing audiences in Germany than any other show. It is broadcast by ZDF, one of the main terrestrial channels. It is an institution, and so is its current presenter, Thomas Gottschalk.

Gottschalk is to call it a day this summer. 24 years of more or less uninterrupted hosting of "Wetten, dass ...?" will come to an end with a live broadcast on 18 June from the bullring in Palma. It will not be the first time that the show has been aired from Mallorca, and it is also not the only German TV programme to be broadcast from the island.

On 18 June, in addition to viewers in Austria and German-speaking Switzerland and anywhere else, 16 million Germans will watch "Wetten, dass ...?". A golden opportunity? You bet it is. Guess who will be collaborating. The Council of Mallorca's economy and tourism department, the Mallorca Tourism Foundation and Air Berlin. They can surely hardly believe their luck. Pre-promotion for and the sheer hype surrounding the show will present the opportunity to advertise Mallorca, while the show itself will be one huge promo for the island.

It isn't all luck, though. Gottschalk's swan song is indicative of the close ties between Germany and Mallorca and of how German broadcasters and other businesses, Air Berlin most obviously, work for their own benefit and to that of Mallorca. ZDF knows that a broadcast from Palma gives "Wetten, dass ...?" additional kudos; Air Berlin knows that it can transport ever more Germans to an island which is, in effect, its home.

Just think about this. Here is a programme, not being shoved onto satellite, but one on national television. The typical star list for "Wetten, dass ...?" is the crème de la crème, and not only of German celebrities. In the past, it has featured the likes of David Bowie, David Beckham, Tom Cruise, Madonna. It is A-list plus, not the Z-listers and their hangers-on-about-town that the British in Mallorca get lumbered with.

This is serious TV and a serious promotional gift horse. It is not the pathetic hope that "Mad Dogs" might afford the chance to show off and say that you recognise such or such a bit of the island or that the series itself might do anything for British tourism. It is not the laddish irrelevance of a "Top Gear" jaunt or "The Inbetweeners" film to maybe adding the odd few Brit tourists. "Wetten, dass ...?" is full-on, unashamed, let's-go-for-the-German-market cashing-in. And everyone benefits. ZDF, Air Berlin and Mallorca.

So you ask yourself, if the Germans can do this, why not the British? I don't know the answer, but part of it may lie simply with the bonds between Germany and Mallorca. For all that Britain is a key tourism market, Mallorca does not have the same hold over the Brits as it does the Germans. A local politician, I forget which one, once said that the British "have Mallorca in their genes". It was a stupid statement, but if it were true, then the Germans must have been around for the Big Bang that eventually created their Mallorcan genes and DNA.

But even given these bonds, someone has to make things happen. Television shows, as opposed to one-size-fits-alling adverts, do have an immense power where promotion is concerned. And with "Wetten, dass ...?" (and, as I say, it isn't the only German show that is ever broadcast from Mallorca) this power is no better demonstrated.

As the 18 June show will be Gottschalk's last, there will be an additional and special dimension to it. And they've chosen Mallorca for this special occasion. It's an incredible coup for the island. It's just a pity that, although Gottschalk helps with translating into English for his non-German celebs, the show is in German and that it will be barely acknowledged by the British media and tourism industry or be barely watched by a British audience.

Just think about. A show with a 16 million audience, on the BBC or ITV, beamed from Mallorca. You can bet that it wouldn't be turned down, but you can probably also bet that it won't happen.

Any comments to please.

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