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No. 16: Kirch Group

Munich

Revenue: $5.1 billion (estimated)

It was a year dominated by sports at German media giant Kirch Group, which is aiming to go public sometime in the next two years.

The leading rights trader in German-speaking territories, Kirch landed a majority stake in Formula One motor racing and snapped up worldwide rights to World Cup soccer in early 2000. Sports programming has been a major source of income for Kirch, which saw revenues from sports reach more than $350 million in 1999.

In 2000, for the first time for the company, free TV accounted for the majority of sales ($2 billion). The development follows Kirch’s acquisition and merging of commercial webs Sat 1 and ProSieben to form ProSiebenSat 1. However, the group has been hit in the first half of 2000 by a downward trend in advertising sales.

Kirch kicked off this term by signing up to buy into German kidvidder EM.TV & Merchandising. Main draw was the prospect of a stake in Formula One, which, come October, will be 58% owned by Kirch.

Kirch’s grand scheme to form a pan-European media heavyweight with Italy’s Mediaset has fallen short of the original idea. Launched in 1999, Epsilon last year abandoned plans to expand further into broadcasting, opting to focus on production and licensing.

Meanwhile, Kirch’s Premiere World, Germany’s only real pay TV platform, is struggling to get a foothold in the saturated German television market. Minority shareholder Rupert Murdoch recently extended his contract for one more year.

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