Kirch, CLT-Ufa merger meets resistance

EC may stop Premiere pay TV alliance

BERLIN — The European Commission may force media giants the Kirch Group and CLT-UFA to surrender their exclusive pay TV rights for Germany to competitors, European competition commissioner Karel van Miert said in an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel.

The EC will approve the planned pay TV alliance of Kirch and CLT-UFA only under certain conditions, the commissioner stressed. “We want to keep the access to the German pay TV market open. Others must have a real chance to offer pay TV in Germany,” Van Miert told the magazine. ” I cannot therefore imagine us allowing this merger without setting far-reaching conditions.”

Kirch and Bertelsmann-affiliated CLT-UFA currently “have more resources for sports programming and high-quality films than all other German TV companies combined,” Van Miert noted. For this reason, the EC is likely to demand that Kirch and CLT-UFA “hand over completely” all of their exclusive pay TV rights, or, at the very least, “license them to other companies under certain clearly-defined conditions.”

Van Miert said he “does not exclude the possibility” that the commission will veto the proposed merger altogether.

Bertelsmann and Kirch ended their prolonged battle for control of pay TV web Premiere last summer by agreeing to cooperate in developing the digital pay TV market in Germany. The EC’s investigation of the proposed merger recently entered a second phase, and may last until June.

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