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CLT in talks with MCA, Par on niche webs

European broadcaster Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Telediffusion (CLT) is in separate negotiations with both MCA and Paramount to become joint-venture equity partners in high-tech niche channels under development by the Euro media giant.

The agreements would make the Hollywood studios partners in twin channel packages CLT is planning for Germany and France. MCA, for instance, is the key to making one of those thematic channels – the “action channel” – work. Participation in more than one channel is under discussion.

While negotiations with MCA have gone on for months, the talks with Paramount are more recent and are seen as a bold attempt to woo Paramount away from its longstanding relationship with CLT rival Leo Kirch.

With cable slots full in Germany, the waning days of free TV have become a race to prepare for the digital future. And at a time when U.S. entertainment companies are looking more and more to the European market, CLT is eager to offer Hollywood platform to launch its name in European broadcasting.

The CLT talks with the studios center on two options: The studios could come on board either as equity partners investing cash up front or as strategic partners who license programming against a cut of gross subscription revenues.

Because CLT’s RTL family of stations has been so strong in Germany, the Eurocaster is looking to capitalize on the trend in Hollywood away from output relationships and toward the development of new channels. Most of all, CLT is eager to end Kirch’s dominance of the film rights market.

Sources told Variety the director of CLT’s TV interests, Ferd Kayser, is coming to the U.S. this week with his head of TV development, Hans Holger Albrecht, to try to seal the deals.

The hope at CLT is that signing MCA and Par as partners for its digital pay package could create enough momentum to sweep along other studios, such as 20th Century Fox or Warner Bros., which are renegotiating program licensing deals this year with the Kirch Group.

At the same time it is looking to score a software coup in Hollywood, CLT is racing to forge a consensus with Bertelsmann, Deutsche Telekom and Germany’s pubcasters ARD and ZDF over the endorsement of a hardware system.

They hope to publicly back that standard in front of manufacturers at this year’s Intl. Broadcasting Exhibit in Berlin. Kirch is developing his own hardware standard in conjunction with another manufacturing group that includes Nokia.

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