BERLIN – After years of slow going, German pay TV channel Premiere finally is taking off. The Hamburg-based web announced Wednesday that it grew by 30% in 1996, passing the break-even mark. Premiere now has 1.4 million subscribers, and has earned 500 million marks ($330 million) this year.
Premiere, which broadcasts mainly premium movies and sporting events, struggled for five years before finally signing up 1 million subscribers, three years behind schedule. Germany’s first pay TV channel, Premiere’s problems led many in the industry to doubt the future of pay TV in Germany, given the extensive free-TV offerings.
Premiere recently has gotten competition from Bavaria media baron Leo Kirch’s digital pay TV web DF1, which launched in July. While DF1 has only 20,000 subscribers to date, the current focus on pay television in Germany may have helped Premiere out of its hole.
Premiere has plans to go digital in early 1997, though it remains unclear whether the channel will be broadcast over the DF1 platform or remain independent.
Media giants Bertelsmann and Canal Plus each hold 37.5% stakes in Premiere, while the Kirch Group owns 25% of the web.