Kirch rival RTL picks up 49.9% stake in net Vox

German b'caster adds more market share for $342 mil

BERLIN — German commercial broadcaster RTL announced it is taking a 49.9% stake in local weblet Vox, a move which is seen as a fortification of the front in the ongoing battle with the TV empire of Leo Kirch.

RTL is acquiring the stake from parent company CLT/Ufa, which struck a DM650 million ($342 million) deal in January with media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

An RTL spokesman said the takeover of Vox would bolster its standing against rival Kirch Group, which controls German free TV broadcasters SAT.1, sports channel DSF and ProSieben’s stations ProSieben and Kabel 1.

RTL — Germany’s most successful commercial web — enjoys a 15% market share, while Vox has struggled with 3%.

RTL managing director Gerhard Zeiler is reportedly looking to coordinate programming between the two stations to better face off against Kirch.

CLT/Ufa is a 50-50 joint venture between German media giant Bertelsmann and Luxembourg company Audiofina. In addition to RTL and Vox, the group also operates RTL2 and Super RTL in Germany.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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