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Meissner’s independence uncovered

Kirch-owned prod'n companies supplied rivals

BERLIN — Startling revelations from Kirch Media continue to shock Germany’s media industry as potential investors get a closer look at the bankrupt Kirch Group’s core free TV and rights division.

The latest discovery: Otto Meissner, long thought to be one of the country’s leading independent TV producers, is anything but independent.

His production companies Terranova and Novafilm, which create series and TV movies for German pubcasters ARD and ZDF, are actually 95% owned by Kirch Media.

The disclosure is especially ironic since Kirch Media, owner of Germany’s biggest broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1, is one of ARD and ZDF’s biggest rivals and critics.

Now Meissner’s Nova group as well as other Kirch production companies including Neue Deutsche Filmgesellschaft (NdF) and international joint ventures Emotion and Evision are to be put on the block.

Kirch Media consultants, in their efforts to spruce up the company for new investors, are looking to divest it of all non-core assets.

However, company will keep its format producers Janus (“Wheel of Fortune”) and Kirch Media Entertainment to produce content for its broadcasters.

In addition, Kirch Media is to boost its film licensing revenues from $900 million last year to more than a $1 billion next year and up to $1.4 billion by 2006.

To get there, ProSiebenSat.1 is expected to increase acquisitions from Kirch Media from $362 million to $481 million.

Whether Kirch’s TV unit will toe the company line remains to be seen: ProSiebenSat.1 chairman Urs Rohner said the broadcaster would only buy what it needed and only at a good price.

Meanwhile, cost cutting has improved the financial state of Kirch’s pay TV broadcaster Premiere.

Despite losing around $2 million a day for the past year, it saw a positive cash flow in June.

Now creditor banks BayernLB and HypoVereinsbank want to take a 25% to 40% stake in the broadcaster by early August subject to an appraisal by Stanley Dean Witter. The remainder of the pay web will be sold to new investors.

German film and TV company Tele Munchen Group is rumored to be interested in the pay platform. European broadcaster RTL Group won’t invest in the web and after writing off $1.68 billion from his 22% stake in Premiere parent Kirch Pay TV, Rupert Murdoch is unlikely to put any more money into the broadcaster.

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