SBS commits to Web in wake of losses

Co.'s e-commerce venture digs $19 mil hole

AMSTERDAM — SBS Broadcasting chairman and CEO Harry Evans Sloan says the company has no plans to abandon new-media enterprises though SBS nearly doubled its losses in 2000, mainly due to its investment in e-ventures.

SBS reported that net losses for the year 2000 were $80 million, up from $43 million, while net revenues were $426 million, up from $413 million in 1999, with the company’s Dutch TV operations remaining the strongest performer. On a local currency basis, the company posted net revs of $488 million for 2000, up 18% over last year’s figures.

Admitting the company was “obviously very disappointed with its venture into e-commerce,” which generated losses of $19 million, Sloan told Daily Variety that the new-media ventures into programming, including “Big Brother”-linked Web sites in Scandinavia, Poland and Switzerland, “continue to be a high priority and cash-flow positive.”

E-revs ‘considerable’

These ventures, he added, are “generating considerable revenue from both access and advertising, and we have no intention of abandoning them.” New media generated $5 million in revenue and $3 million in cash flow.

The e-venture losses, he said, were a combination of cash and unsold advertising time. Company’s exchange of its investments in shopping channel HOT Italia for similar investments in a home shopping venture in the Benelux countries and France cost the company another $12 million in losses.

SBS’ Belgian channel VT4 as well as its Norwegian outlet TVNorge both posted decreased net revenues. While SBS had the rights to “Big Brother” across a number of territories, Belgium was not among them. Sloan admitted the broadcast of “Big Brother” by rival outfit VTM-owned Kanaal 2 hurt the company in Belgium.

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