Premiere primed for prod’n partnerships

BERLIN — With no agreement with programming supplier Leo Kirch in sight, pay TV channel Premiere is pumping up its co-production activities. Premiere’s co-production partners include HBO and commercial web RTL.

Beyond 1998, virtually all pay TV output deals with the Hollywood majors are held by Bavarian media magnate Kirch. Although Kirch has a 25% stake in Premiere, 37.5% is held by Canal Plus and another 37.5% by Kirch arch-rival Bertelsmann AG.

So far, Kirch and Bertelsmann have been unable to agree on Premiere’s digital future. Kirch would like Premiere, which has nearly 1.5 million subscribers, to join the platform of his struggling DF1 digital pay TV web. Yet under Bertelsmann’s direction, Premiere has launched digital pilot projects independently of DF1.

Premiere may get Kirch pics

Even if the stalemate between the shareholders is not resolved over the coming months, Premiere managing director Bernd Kundrun has said that Kirch may offer his Hollywood pics to Premiere.

Unless a dramatic improvement occurs in DF1 subscriber numbers (currently 30,000), Kirch will be hard-pressed to fund his pricey output deals without Premiere viewers.

But in case negotiations with Kirch do fail, Premiere expects to secure a steady supply of attractive programming through co-productions. Twelve such projects are planned for this year, 20 for 1998 and 30 for 1999.

Programming director Andreas Wrede introduced Premiere Prods. in Hamburg last week. Premiere will be a member of the newly formed Kreativ Pool, a co-production partnership which includes commercial webs RTL, RTL2 and Vox; Gruner+Jahr TV; UFA Prods.; and several pubcasters.

“The Captain of Koepenick,” a Premiere co-production with a group of pubcasters, will air on Premiere this summer, as will RTL co-productions “Seven Fires of Death” and “Vicky’s Nightmare.”

The Hollywood habit

The Kreativ Pool members hope to reduce their level of dependence on Hollywood. “We can no longer rely on these economically absurd output deals,” UFA helmer Wolf Bauer said.

Premiere will model itself on the example of U.S. paybox HBO, which produces over a third of its own programming. Premiere VP Douglas Schwalbe referred to his channel as an “ideal partner” for HBO.

Together with UFA, HBO and Premiere co-produced submarine thriller “Hostile Waters.” Premiere will also be involved in HBO’s largest production ever, the 13-part series “From the Earth to the Moon.”

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