Mr. Bergman, many of those who go to television do so with the intent of reaching a large number of people. What does that have to do with you and Bart?
We are no different from others. Of course we want to reach as many audiences as possible. This is a crucial point that drives us every day. However, it is not mass alone that decides class and quality.
How difficult is the balancing act of making a high-end TV without appearing aloof?
It is a matter of tone. The public is truly very sensitive and there is nothing worse than someone acting and claiming the only truth for themselves. We can’t do that if we’re doing an international program – and we don’t want to either. Our strength lies in looking at things from different points of view, for example in the form of big reports or investigations on Tuesday evenings. We don’t want to be high school teachers or explain everything through patriotic glasses. In our opinion, this is the only way to create a European audience worthy of this name.
Is Arte getting more modern?
We are certainly not news broadcasters, even if we produce a very good daily news program through our own “magazine”, the purpose of which is to communicate said viewpoints. At the same time, we have a whole suite of programs that are more interactive and faster than in the early years, and that can respond to the rapidly changing world, in particular the “Re” weekday reporting series, which we are now running for Year 5. Although we are not kept up to date on a daily basis, we can respond to events across Europe in a relatively short time.
How popular is Arte outside Germany and France?
Awareness is now relatively common in Europe. We note, especially from the feedback on our show in six languages now on arte.tv, that Arte is being used more and more outside Germany and France. With our media library, now a kind of Euroflix, with only a nicer name, we are reaching more and more people all over Europe.
In fact, the Arte website looks like Netflix with cultural content. Certainly no coincidence…
We didn’t have to look at anyone. Arte is one of the pioneers of diverse and diverse online shows. The depth of our website, which in its richness goes far beyond fantasy series and shows, speaks for itself. We don’t have to hide behind anyone. The task now is to make this somewhat hidden gem better known.
How is it supposed to work?
Of course, this also includes more money for advertising, which we don’t have because we basically put every euro into the program. However, we are confident that the quality of our program and word of mouth will enable us to continue on our path of growth. The numbers speak for it, we’re moving in seven leagues toward the two billion anniversary call mark. This is a number that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
“Structurally, we are not very simple, some say complex, but if the will is there, the distances will be very short.”
How has the strategic direction changed since Aarti started?
The founding Franco-German romanticism gave way to a pragmatic professionalism directed at the complex competitive situation. In addition, it is now clear that the European idea – and I’m not just talking about Franco-German friendship as the backbone alone – is not a “nice idea”, but a “must have”. It is about developing and defending our cultural diversity and our freedom. Beyond the German-speaking world, this also applies to Arte as the only multinational media platform association that feels committed to these values.
Was Arte a little ahead of his time, especially when we think of the war in Ukraine, which once again cemented the cohesion in Europe?
Not in the future, but we asked ourselves how we might have misinterpreted all the documents and reports in which we explained the situation on the eastern side of Europe, so wrong that we could not see the outbreak of this war of aggression. Either can be expected. It’s true that we’re in a big company, but that’s something that gives us a lot to think about. This has now resulted in a very tangible program initiative that will celebrate the premiere on June 7 at 10:45 p.m.: On the basis of our “Tracks” platform, we are launching a new series of programs in which we will bring together journalists primarily from the East Should make a new magazine,” Tracks East”. It is not just about war, but about all the small and large cultural and social phenomena that arise in this situation in an environment that might build the future after the war. We focus on young people who really have something to say.
Even during Corona, you proved that Arte can react quickly, for example in the form of parties, which I added to the program without further ado.
Structurally, we are not very simple, as some say complex, but if the will is there, the distances will become very short. It was a great experience for all of us in the team, the French and the German, to see how quickly we were able to react. This resonated with the public. Especially in the Corona period, people expected a cultural alternative from cultural programs like Arte and we delivered it.
It may come as a surprise to some that Aarti appeals to a fairly young audience. Why do you succeed where other public broadcasters often struggle?
This does not surprise me at all. Why are young people not interested in cultural things? You may not want to deal with something heavy every day, every hour, in every situation. But I don’t think it has anything to do with age. By the way, I have never in my long career now as a TV person and cultural medium. It is important to consider the ways in which you can reach people. That is why it was right that Artie, as one of the first broadcasters, understood early on that linear television alone would not be enough in the future to attract young people in particular.
Does branding Arte help if your content is also represented in ARD and ZDF media libraries?
If we’re with YouTube, why not be with our moms and dads? 40 percent of the entire Arte program is produced or co-produced with ARD and ZDF. I think it’s great to see our shows elsewhere. The customization of our brand actually works well. Feel free to ask questions about yourself: many people know us more than just watching us.
‘There can never be enough cultural brands.’
ZDF has now revitalized its ZDFkultur brand, and ARD is also working on its own cultural platform. Do you think this is the right way to go at times when it’s important to focus on just a few brands?
I’d like to respond to this: There can never be enough cultural branding. However, you have to of course make sure that the individual brands are strong enough for people to know about. It is therefore important to maintain a certain degree of selectivity. At Arte, I’m not worried because our unique selling proposition is delivered through our structure. There is no similar offer in Germany and Europe. No national cultural platform will develop a competitor to this. On the contrary: we will exchange ideas and strengthen each other.
Arte has been increasingly involved in serial production for several years. Why actually, when there is certainly no shortage of serial performances?
I am one of those people who were initially skeptical about our involvement in serial production. This is certainly one of the misconceptions of my professional life, as the series has become a central creative engine for imagination all over the world. Arte has developed an unmistakable show here because we focused on European series and thanks to the breadth of our show we can showcase products that would otherwise have received little attention. A great example, which we owe to our colleagues at ARD, is the series “Servants of the People” with today’s Ukrainian President Selinsky, which we had on the program a year and a half before the outbreak of the war.
What remains is often language barriers. problem?
The misery of the confusion of the Babylonian language is still one of the main reasons why we in Europe sometimes find it difficult to understand each other. But we can do something about it, for example by translating and translating. I’m also curious what AI language programs can do at this point in the future to better overcome barriers in the future.
Final question: What does MD Aarti watch when he’s not watching his own show?
(You think) I traditionally watch “Tageschau” and later “Hieut Magazine” in the evening as one of the last remaining rituals of my life. Other than that, I’m a big fan of nature documentaries, which Arte has in droves, but also find on other shows. And I’m secretly watching “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix. (Laugh)
Mr. Bergman, Thank you very much for the interview.