Premiere courts curb on DF1

BERLIN — German pay TV channel Premiere is seeking an injunction against Munich-based digital pay TV web DF1, claiming that DF1 has a license to operate in Bavaria only, and should not be allowed to recruit subscribers in other German states.

Since July of last year, DF1, owned by Bavarian media magnate Leo Kirch and Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB, has been available via satellite across Germany to subscribers equipped with the D-Box digital decoder. In part because it has yet to gain access to Germany’s cable systems, DF1 had signed on only a tenth of the 200,000 households it had hoped to reach by the end of 1996.

Premiere, which has plans to start offering a digital form of the channel in mid-February, has been locked in a le-gal battle with DF1 since the summer, primarily over the rights to broadcast and advertise premium movies. Kirch, who holds a 25% stake in the channel, would like to bring Premiere’s 1.4 million subscribers onto the DF1 plat-form, but media giant Bertelsmann, which owns 37.5% stake of Premiere, wants the Hamburg-based web to remain independent.

Premiere may have trouble going digital on its own, however. Recently, there have been indications that the remaining shareholder in Premiere, French media group Canal Plus (with 37.5%), may be shifting to the Kirch camp. A DF1 spokesman said a Hamburg court would reach a decision on the matter early next week.

Premiere could not be reached for comment.

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