Informing with self-awareness and contributing to the formation of opinion

Sven Pietsch, Editor-in-Chief Seven.One Entertainment Group

March 2022. As a matter of conviction, Seven.One Entertainment Group decided to take a strong stance and afford far greater scope to socially relevant topics in its programming in 2021.
Classroom cross-examination: In “Kannste Kanzleramt?” (Facing the Classroom) in SAT.1, the three candidates for German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, Armin Laschet and Annalena Baerbock, fielded questions from interested and informed schoolchildren from across the country. With their probing on issues from climate protection through digital learning to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the children aged 8 to 13 put the heat on the seasoned politicians during prime time.

17 schoolchildren draw party leaders Annalena Baerbock, Olaf Scholz and Armin Laschet out of their shells with their questions about running for chancellor in the German federal elections, at prime time on SAT.1. To support the fight against COVID-19, TV presenters Linda Zervakis and Matthias Opdenhövel received their booster vaccines live on their own show on ProSieben. While campaigning to become Germany’s next chancellor, Green party leader Annalena Baerbock gave her first extensive interview on ProSieben and – in the final three-way debate on SAT.1, ProSieben and Kabel Eins – participated in the last and arguably most important face-off with her two opponents ahead of the federal elections.

The next big step for ProSiebenSat.1 Group’s Entertainment segment is expanding production activities to encompass an in-house newsroom: From the beginning of 2023, cross-platform news reports tailored to the target group will be produced directly at headquarters at Unterföhring in Bavaria. In this interview, Seven.One Entertainment Group’s Editor-in-Chief, Sven Pietsch, explains how the company already started implementing its content strategy through relevant topics, local in-house productions and live programming last year and how it will continue to address topics and formats in this way moving forward.

For the first time, a chancellor candidate gave an initial in-depth interview on ProSieben. In an exclusive interview with Katrin Bauerfeind and Thilo Mischke, the newly elected chancellor candidate for Germany’s Green Party, Annalena Baerbock, explained how she would like to shape the country’s politics after the 2021 federal elections. And for the first time in its history, the station aired a political interview accompanied by live sign language interpretation for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
Starting in 2023, Seven.One Entertainment Group will produce its own news reports. And, for some time now, the company has been appreciably expanding its own information formats. Why is timely political news coverage so important?

It forms part of our successful, ongoing strategy of producing local, current and relevant content under our own steam. It is our motivation to inform people in Germany and help them make up their own minds about issues. We intend to shoulder even more of this important sociopolitical responsibility going forward. With the rise of fake news and information flows driven by algorithms, independent, timely news coverage is more essential than ever before. There is no mistaking how people’s need for reliable, high-quality information programs has grown considerably in recent years. In response, we have significantly increased the number of sociopolitical information programs on our schedule. Thilo Mischke’s documentary for ProSieben in 2020 “Rechts. Deutsch. Radikal.” (Right-Wing. German. Radical.), for instance, attracted international attention. And the ProSieben news magazine show “Zervakis & Opdenhövel. Live.” has grappled with current issues of concern to people in Germany on a weekly basis since 2021.

Prime-time politics on ProSieben: In the first edition of the “ProSieben Bundestagswahl Show,” (The ProSieben Federal Elections Show) host Louis Klamroth welcomed chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock. During the in-depth, one-on-one interview and direct interactions with citizens, Mrs. Baerbock tackled the studio audiences’ specific concerns, needs and demands.
What are the advantages of having an own newsroom?

Creating our own content is, of course, an advantage in itself. Plus, topical reporting opens up new avenues for us. Where necessary, we can, for instance, respond faster and more flexibly with special broadcasts at short notice. By fully integrating the central newsroom into our campus in Unterföhring, the staff will be able to work side by side with the magazine editorial teams. This way, we are bundling our information expertise and our journalistic savvy even more closely under one roof. It means we will also be able to distribute our news reports across all media platforms. The extent of how significant these new additions are for us and our viewers was already evident in our coverage of the German federal elections.

In the run-up to the 2021 German federal elections, Linda Zervakis und Claudia von Brauchitsch grilled chancellor candidates Olaf Scholz, Annalena Baerbock and Armin Laschet in a final TV debate, broadcast on ProSieben, SAT.1 and Kabel Eins. The debate was also livestreamed on Joyn,, and as well as the “Galileo” show’s YouTube channel.
In the run-up to the 2021 federal elections, the ProSiebenSat.1 platforms’ political reporting was not only more intensive but also more detailed and varied than ever before. With hindsight, do you consider it a success?

Absolutely! This was an incredible team effort involving many different colleagues and departments. We aired more than 26 hours of special broadcasts, created eight new TV formats and produced 76 reports tailored specifically to the federal elections. In total, more than 53 million viewers (aged 3 years+) watched our election coverage. And it wasn’t just in terms of the numbers but also the quality of the programs that we achieved great success. Our viewers especially appreciated that our style and method of reporting bore our distinctive stamp in that, for example, we introduced new angles and approaches to the political discussion while presenting the candidates and the issues in a fresh light. “Kannste Kanzleramt?” (Facing the Classroom) and “Die ProSieben-Bundestagswahl-Show” (The ProSieben Federal Elections Show) are proof positive that, without verging on the apolitical, even unconventional narrative styles are welcomed by a broad audience.

With programming changes at short notice, ProSieben and SAT.1 responded promptly in November to growing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus in Germany with a special live broadcast, “Corona. Spezial” (Corona Special Report). During prime time, presenters Linda Zervakis and Claudia von Brauchitsch updated viewers on the current situation and the decisions taken as part of the Conference of Federal State Prime Ministers in Berlin.
For the first time, a chancellor candidate gave an initial in-depth interview on a private station. The trade press DWDL has referred to this as a “deritualization of political news coverage.” The media response to the final three-way TV debate on ProSieben, SAT.1 and Kabel Eins was highly positive. What conclusions have you drawn from that?

Of course, we are totally thrilled about the accolades. They are a testimony to the gains in relevance that our political reporting has made. More than that, they confirm our strategy is correct and spur us on in further strengthening our focus on independent content and formats in this line. In the final three-way TV debate, more than 4 million viewers (aged 3 years+) got to watch political events play out before them on our stations. In the run-up to the federal elections, our program garnered a great deal of attention and approval, especially from younger target groups. By addressing young audiences in a more specific and age-appropriate way, we reach viewer groups that hardly, if ever, watch public broadcasts.

In September 2021, the new ProSieben magazine show “Zervakis & Opdenhövel. Live.” (#ZOL) kicked off with co-hosts Linda Zervakis and Matthias Opdenhövel. Each week, the pair tackle current topics, such as coronavirus prevention measures, inflation, working conditions in nursing professions and the effects of climate change. They talk to those affected and those responsible as well as experts and prominent guests.
Under the slogan #MachdenUnterschied (#MakeADifference), the Seven.One Entertainment Group’s “Geh wählen!” (Go vote!) campaign was another youth-centric vehicle. How important is it to appeal to young viewers on formats other than TV? And what role does social media play in this?

In today’s media landscape, it is essential that we use our content to make our presence felt across all platforms. In considering how to strategically distribute content to optimum effect and attract as much attention as possible, social media has a major role to play, above all for young target groups. For our multi-station “Geh wählen!” campaign, we used all of our stations’ TV and online channels as well as our social media platforms to achieve 148 million gross exposures – an extremely large slice of the population – and appeal especially to young voters and non-voters.

With the help of the Malteser humanitarian relief agency, #ZOL put its weight behind the fight against COVID-19 by organizing a short-term vaccination drive in November at the ProSiebenSat.1 headquarter in Unterföhring. Anyone interested in receiving an initial or booster shot could visit the two vaccination buses. Linda Zervakis and Matthias Opdenhövel not only drove the campaign, but also received their booster shots live on TV.
Looking ahead, what’s on the agenda for 2022?

This year will be devoted to building our new newsroom. We are entering a decisive phase in our preparations to produce and broadcast our news formats from Unterföhring in January 2023. What’s more, we will also expand our investigative journalism and work on reaching new documentary and reportage milestones, as we recently did with “SAT.1 investigativ” (SAT.1 Investigates). Notably with our political reporting, we aim to keep developing new ways of presenting current issues so that they remain interesting and relevant to our viewers, even outside of elections. 2022 will definitely be an exciting year.