Sat-TV obit channel to go live soon

December 13, 2007

Tomb in a cemetery in BudapestObituaries on TV? Satellite broadcasts of cemetery visits? It may sound morbid, but a German television producer plans to launch a satellite TV channel dedicated to obituary videocasts, features on famous graveyards and practical advice for those nearing death. And he thinks he’s got a huge target audience that can only get bigger in coming years.

Etos TV had planned a launch this year but put it back to early 2008 because of all the interest shown in the project in Germany and abroad, its founder Wolf Tilmann Schneider told the German media magazine That will give it time to integrate suggestions from new business partners, he said. “Every country has a different (funeral) culture, but all have the same problem — the decline of this culture,” he said.

There are 485,000 obituaries published in (German) newspapers every year, but there’s nothing about the people in them,” Schneider told the Financial Times Deutschland. “With our service, people will be able to contribute obituaries for anyone who dies, with pictures and texts that are professionally produced.”

Schneider says the channel, which is backed by the German Funeral Trade Publishing House, won’t show actual burials. It plans three main features — obituary videocasts, reports on cemeteries and advice services. “People are interested in cemeteries, they go strolling Hamburg’s Jewish cemetery, open to visitors since 29 Nov, 2007there on Sundays or go visit them on vacation,” he explained. “Just think about famous graveyards like Montmartre in Paris or the one in Hamburg-Ohlsdorf.”

The website of Etos TV — etos means “year” in Greek — has three “demo obits” to show just how these videocasts could look. Backed by tastefully melancholy piano music, one commemorates “the best grandma children could ever want,” another tells a friend “you had to leave us too early” and a third pays tribute to a respected colleague (“your company was your second home”). Pictures of the deceased and loved ones blend into shots of sunsets, mountains and clouds. God is mentioned only in one, but users would be free to express religious views as they wish.

Schneider has clearly done his market research. “Our target audience is simply anyone over 50 — one doesn’t normally die at this age, but one asks questions that weren’t there before,” he said. “Our channel’s target audience is gigantic and is getting ever larger thanks to demographic changes. We already have more than two million people The windsurf board of Dalia Saiani covered with friends’ signatures, at her wake in Ravenna, Italy 16 Feb. 2007in long-term care and by 2010 it will be three million. If every one of them has four relatives, we’re over 10 million people!

Funeral practices have certainly changed in recent decades, with mixed results. What do you think about putting a person’s obituary on satellite TV? Have people lost respect for the dead? Or is this simply a modern — and maybe better — way to celebrate someone’s life?

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