CLT/Ufa eyes soccer

Confirms talks with News Corp. over tm3 rights

BERLIN — Amid heavy speculation on the future of tm3, European heavyweight CLT/Ufa has confirmed talks with the station’s main shareholder, News Corp., on taking over the rights to European soccer Champions League, which were acquired for the cable channel late last year.

A CLT/Ufa spokesperson refused to give further details on the talks but confirmed negotiations were under way with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which holds a 66% stake in tm3.

Such a deal would have to be agreed to by the other main shareholder in tm3, Herbert Kloiber, and by the German soccer association.

Rumors ‘bonkers’

Kloiber told Daily Variety Wednesday that there were no discussions under way over the rights and denied industry rumors that tm3 would be shut down, describing them as “bonkers.”

Other industry observers think it unlikely that the station would pull the plug as it occupies coveted cable space. Numerous stations, such as the ProSieben group’s news channel, N24, which launches later this month, are desperate for cable.

In a bid to transform tm3 into a major channel, Kloiber and News Corp. shelled out DM800 million ($418 million) for the free and pay TV rights to the Champions League late last year, snapping them away from the previous broadcaster, CLT/Ufa-backed RTL.

Murdoch selling the Champions League rights or his stake in tm3 would make sense in light of the latest developments. After the mogul’s recent acquisition of a 24% stake in the German pay TV web Premiere, Murdoch was quick to shed his main German free TV asset, Vox, suggesting that he is now concentrating on pay TV. As a standalone channel, tm3 would be of little value to him.

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