The history of 99pro is, first of all, the history of the founder. Bernd Schumacher learned his trade as a reporter at TELE 5, as a correspondent for ProSieben – Nachrichten (News) in Israel, as well as a reporter in many parts of the world.
In the year 2000, Bernd established 99pro media in Leipzig with the vision of creating his own formats. The starting point of our development work is the question of what really moves us and what makes us the people we are. If we succeed in revealing this and understanding each other, we will develop – the basis for a tolerant society.
Bernd’s team succeeds in its unique format for magazine programmes, such as the “Drei Leben” (Three Lives) series, which is successful on ProSieben‘s Mittagsmagazin SAM.
In 2003, “The 99ers” produced the first docu-soap for the channel ProSieben, the 12-part series “Die Teenie-Mama”(Teenage Mom). In the same year, Bernd submitted a concept that explores the question of what holds a family together at its core:
In 2005, the station finally commissioned 99pro media to produce the daily documentary soap “We are family”. It was the breakthrough for the young company: For ProSieben it was the most successful new launch of a format on daytime TV in 5 years and the Leipzig team could continue to produce “Das pure Leben” until 2008, showing very different families with their personal and social challenges and breaking down prejudices. A double episode of the format won the Grimme Prize.
In 2006, 99pro media produced the 6-part documentary soap “Prima Klima” for WDR. In 2007 the series was aired on ARD.
In 2008, 99pro media successfully pitched the production format “Auf und Davon” (“Up and Away“) to VOX, which shows the start of young people on an independent life into the world. Here, too, we reveal what drives the protagonists and what lies behind these authentic stories.
A young beautician from Ludwigshafen, who has set her mind on appearing in the American edition of Playboy, is completely out of the ordinary. Daniela Katzenberger fails, but wins the hearts of the audience – first with “Auf und Davon”, then with “Goodbye Deutschland” and, from Autumn 2010, in her own format “Daniela Katzenberger – Naturally blond”. The woman and her stories prove to be a magnet for viewers (75 broadcast hours in 7 seasons until 2014) and “Daniela Katzenberger” is a successful personality brand, which we license, recognized with the international Lima Award. Daniela’s biography “Sei Schlau, stell Dich dumm”(Be clever, act dumb) becomes a bestseller and came in third on the best-seller list for 2012.
Parallel to Daniela’s series, 99pro media, in 2011, would enter into production of the emigrant format “Goodbye Deutschland”, which we are still successfully broadcasting today. Here, we developed spin-offs of the format, such as “Viva Mallorca” for VOX primetime on Monday evenings.
In a long-term documentary, we have accompanied people in a social hotspot in Kaiserslautern since the Summer of 2014. The TV premiere “Asternweg – Eine Straße ohne Ausweg” aired on 11 April 2015 on a Saturday evening starting at 20:15 on VOX. The four-hour documentary reached 8.0% of the viewers in the target group of 14 to 49-year-olds. The broadcast brings with it a wave of helpfulness, with the press and experts paying tribute to the work. It was awarded the German Television Prize in 2016 as the best reportage/documentary of the year. The broadcast of the second four-hour documentary entitled “Asternweg – One Year Later” on 2 April 2016 even reached a 12.8 % market share in the target group of 14 to 49-year-olds. In 2020, we plan to film a third part of the documentary.
In 2015, Bernd and Patricia Fritsche developed a format in a VOX pitch that revolves around wedding dresses. In February 2016, we broadcasted “Zwischen Tüll und Tränen” in 10 episodes in VOX-Daytime. With a clear double-digit market share, it was a success right from the start. With VOX’s offer to give the format a daily program slot since August 2016, the company has grown to 100 employees.
At the beginning of 2016, 99pro media started producing reports for ZDF and ZDF info.
In the area of docu-soap, new ground was broken from 2017: “Little Heroes – Big Time” shows children and young people who must deal with severe handicaps or must fight for their lives. The series confronts us with those ultimate questions and encourages us – thanks to its charismatic protagonists. A 99pro format that’s produced for RTL II.
From April 2018, we aired on RTL II what Germany’s hairdressers can do: “Einfach hairlich – Die Friseure” (“Simply Hairy – the Hairdressers“) broadcasting 15 episodes in Daytime and 15 episodes in Late Primetime. We are currently shooting a second season.
In 2017/18, we produced the founding documentary “Jung, Weiblich, Boss!” (“Young, Female, Boss”), which could be seen in 2 episodes on RTL II – Primetime in August 2018 and in 3 further episodes on RTL+.
In August 2018, RTL showed the pilot episode of a new 99pro media format in prime time: “2 Families, 2 Worlds” hit the heart of viewers with 12.7% of 14 to 49-year-olds. A second pilot would air on RTL 2 in July 2019. We are currently producing the first season of the format.
In July 2019, VOX aired the first studio production of 99pro media. The title of the program:
“7 daughters”. Prominent parents exchange ideas about what it means to grow up with a big name.
In March 2020 99pro media is co-producer of a documentary in the ZDF zeit series entitled: “Stresstest Corona”.
STAND TODAY we produce 2 primetime and one daytime format, plus a true-crime series on behalf of a streaming provider, documentaries, reports for new formats. What began with Bernd’s idea is now being implemented by around 100 full-time colleagues in Leipzig, Berlin and Hamburg.
Are we successful?
We measure this primarily by whether we can fulfill our WHY?, i.e. whether we can remain true to ourselves, follow our calling and influence others in this sense. A second decisive criterion for “success” for us is whether we are able to meet each other in the company without prejudice, with respect and full of compassion and feel free – in other words, whether we are able to live our values ourselves. The third factor is profitability – as the foundation for our independent creative work.
On 01.10.2020 99pro media became subsidiary of RTL Mediengruppe Deutschland. The new managing director is Inga Leschek, who will continue to manage the RTL studios.
“The history of 99pro media is a small miracle ‘made in Leipzig’. Our claim to tell people authentically was already met with open ears at VOX in 2008. Here we have ‘Daniela Katzenberger – naturally blonde’, who was allowed to develop the Mallorca emigrants at ‘Goodbye Germany’, the ‘Asternweg’ and ‘Between Tulle and Tears’ into hits – in respectful exchange with the decision makers in Cologne. As part of the Media Group RTL, the ’99ers’ can ideally continue to shape their future, supported by a highly competent managing director in a strong group,” Bernd is quoted as saying.
Inga Leschek commented: “Together with my team, I am delighted to welcome the great colleagues of 99pro media to RTL Studios. Our many years of experience in the production of rousing factual entertainment, big shows and true-to-life documentaries complement each other perfectly. Together we want to develop creative content for all platforms and partners and implement innovative format ideas for the German-speaking market.
In October 2021, Jörg Graf became the sole managing director of RTL Studios and 99pro media GmbH. Inga Leschek has left the company.
EXPLORING THE SOUL OF HUMANITY.