EU halts D-box push

CLT-Ufa, Kirch joint marketing plans blocked

BERLIN — The European Commission has ordered media giants CLT-Ufa and the Kirch Group to refrain from jointly marketing their digital pay TV services.

Kirch and CLT-Ufa said on Saturday they have received a letter from EU officials instructing the partners to stop selling and leasing the D-Box digital decoder to subscribers of pay TV web Premiere.

Ending a heated battle for control of the German digital television market, Kirch and Bertelsmann-affiliated CLT-Ufa announced plans to join their German digital pay TV activities last summer. Pending approval from federal and EU antitrust authorities, Kirch’s digital pay TV web DF1 will be fused with pay TV network Premiere, a joint venture of CLT-Ufa and Kirch. The partners submitted their final merger agreement to European Commission cartel authorities for review several weeks ago.

While awaiting approval of the joint venture, Premiere, which has 1.6 million analog subscribers, is offering a digital form of the channel via the D-Box digital decoder. The D-Box was originally developed by the Kirch Group and is used by DF1.

Premiere’s decision to adopt the D-Box is independent of the merger plans, the partners argued in a joint statement. CLT-Ufa and Kirch Group execs plan to meet with EU reps over the next several days to clarify their position.

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