Top Players Follow Lead Of Mega-network Negotiations

Ongoing negotiations between top indie producer Endemol Entertainment, pan-European conglomerate CLT, giant Dutch publisher VNU and Dutch broadcaster Veronica over the start-up of a four-channel mega-network have spurred a new wave of merger talks among other top players in Belgium and Holland.

Belgian-based D&D Prods., the second-largest independent producer of television programs in the Benelux, has confirmed it is in talks with at least three Dutch independent TV production companies to form a possible joint venture that could compete with the Endemol and RTL group in making programs for the Dutch speaking market.

At present, Endemol and the CLT-backed RTL 4 make a large number of the television programs aired in Holland, with Endemol also being a primary producer for the public broadcasters. D&D currently produces more than 500 hours a year of programs for Belgian commercial market leader VTM alone, and several hundred a year for Dutch TV.

Last year, D&D upped its Dutch profile with a 100% buyout of Sleeswijk Entertainment, the biggest producer of theatrical and music television programs in Holland. Now, company president Eric Dillens says the mega-network negotiations have fueled a new drive by D&D for partners “to make sure we maintain our position in the market.”

The company is currently in talks with Rene Stokvis, a 14-year-old reality and gameshow producer, and at least two other unnamed Dutch indie television producers. “We want to be prepared to respond to everything that happens on the Dutch market. If this alliance comes about, it will be harder to compete with Endemol, but we intend to do so,” says Dillens.

Worries that the mega-media group behind the new four-channel net could corner the Dutch market in program-making and advertising have triggered calls for a governmental investigation of possible violations of anti-competition laws in Holland. Originally expected to wrap by Christmas, the talks are now expected to drag on until mid-February.

D&D currently has offices in Holland, Portugal, Germany and the United States. Consolidated revenues for the company in 1994 was 2 billion Belgian francs ($645 million).

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