German paybox Premiere picks pix

BERLIN — German pay-TV web Premiere has inked two megabuck pay TV output deals with Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox and with newcomer movie producer DreamWorks.

The deals bulwark the position of Permiere in its battle with rival digital platfom DF1 to obtain rights to A-tier movies. The two platforms are currently in talks to end their bickering and jointly develop the fledgling digital TV market in Germany.

Premiere has acquired the pay-TV rights to Fox pics such as “Independence Day,” “Braveheart,” and “Titanic,” as well as to future feature films and TV shows. Some library material is also included and there are options to jointly develop channels for the Premiere platform.

The deal with Fox is “comparable” in scope and duration to those of the high-profile pay TV deals done by the six other major studios with the Kirch Group over the last 18 months, Twentieth Century Fox TV Intl. president Mark Kaner told Daily Variety. Those deals with Kirch are collectively worth some $6 billion over the next decade. Kaner would not put a figure on the Fox deal with Premiere, but outside sources said it is likely for “several hundred million dollars.”

Twentieth Century Fox is the last of the major Hollywood studios to ink a pay TV deal in Germany. That’s partly because Fox owner Rupert Murdoch had switched his alliances twice in the last year, having first sought to take a share in a Bertelsmann-backed consortium to develop pay TV services, then subsequently opted to take a share in Kirch’s fledgling platform. Both agreements came to nought. The new talks with Premiere, which is jointly owned by Bertelsmann, Canal Plus and Kirch, heated up over the last couple of months, sources said.

The final points of the agreement were nailed down Wednesday, per Kaner.

Similarly, discussions with DreamWorks have been ongoing for several months and were settled several weeks ago, per sources. DreamWorks pay-TV topper Hal Richardson told Daily Variety the deal involves a commitment for the first 40 Dreamworks-produced films. These will include the company’s first four releases — “Peacemaker,” “Amistad,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Mouse Hunt” — all due out over the next year.

Richardson would not put a figure on the deal but he said that DreamWorks, which functions more as an indie boutique than a studio machine, has the advantage of offering pay TV clients precisely what they want for their channels — top-of-the-line titles with essentially no dross thrown in. Studios, on the other hand, offload all their titles in an output deal, the mediocre ones as well as the good ones.

“These contracts ensure that Premiere will be supplied with high quality programming over the long term,” said Premiere managing director Bernd Kundrun.

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