Ironic German crime procedural Tatort has found an American home. Specialist streamer MHz Choice, owned by New York-based art house distributor Kino Lorber and focused on international TV series, has picked up North American rights to the long-running, and phenomenally-successful, series, inking a deal with sales group Beta Film for 250 episodes of the show.
It’s hard to overstate the impact of Tatort (Crime Scene) on German pop culture. The show, which airs every Sunday night on public broadcaster ARD, regularly draws more than 10 million viewers. Top-rated episodes have peaked at more than 14 million, a 40 percent-plus share of the country’s overall TV audience.
The series is a variant of the classic “case of the week” format, with alternating teams of detectives from different German cities and regions (Berlin, Munich, Cologne) investigating murders and other crimes. Since its premiere on November 29, 1970 — the show still uses the same 1970s intro music, written by Klaus Doldinger, known for his film scores to Das Boot and The Neverending Story — Tatort has been the number 1 scripted series on German TV. It even spawned an East German competitor, Polizeiruf 110, which is still on the air and is now nearly as successful as the Western German original.
The show’s regional approach, a product of ARD’s corporate structure (the network is jointly owned and run by Germany‘s regional public-service broadcasters), has allowed Tatort to produce a wide variety of genres within the procedural format, from the crime comedy of the Münster team to the Tatort Dortmund squad, which tracks down serial killers. ARD’s regional networks have produced more than 30 two-hour Tatort episodes a year.
The MHz Choice deal is for shows produced by WDR, ARD’s largest regional network, as well as select shows commissioned by WDR and northern German network Radio Bremen. Beta Film and WDR’s commercial division, WDR mediagroup, are jointly handling licensing and international sales for the series.