Kirch inks second Paramount deal

Package of rights valued at $500 mil

BERLIN — In its second major licensing agreement in recent weeks, insolvent German TV giant Kirch Media has signed a wide-ranging programming deal with Paramount.

The multi-year pact, announced Thursday, includes 100 films and series, including “Vanilla Sky,” “Save the Last Dance” and “Enterprise,” and gives Kirch Media’s free-to-air multi-channel broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1 exclusive rights to the fare.

The coup comes in the wake of a similar deal last month with Disney and further bolsters Kirch Media’s stance in Germany’s shaky marketplace as it prepares to change ownership; Hamburg publishing group Heinrich Bauer is in final negotiations to take over the company.

Kirch Media declined to name a price for the deal but put the value of the rights, some of which it will hold until 2011, at €500 million ($500 million).

“With this deal we have put the business relationship Kirch has had with Paramount for more than 30 years on a new level,” said Kirch Media’s outgoing programming chief Fred Kogel. “We can now successfully continue our cooperation in the future.”

Kirch Media officials also declined to comment on the state of the legal battles between Paramount parent Viacom and Kirch’s former parent company Kirch Group over unpaid bills related to earlier output deals. Kirch Media filed for bankruptcy in April, causing the rest of the vast Kirch Group to follow suit.

“We have taken a great step forward with this agreement in terms of Kirch Media’s financial outlook and satisfying creditors,” said Kirch Media’s interim chief exec Wolfgang van Betteray.

Kirch Media also struck separate multi-year deals with a slew of German and European distributors, including Constantin, Epsilon, Highlight, Senator and Tobis. The agreements, which company said were jointly priced in the “three-digit million” dollar range, similarly include free-TV rights to more than 100 films and series, including Senator’s “Black Hawk Down” and “America’s Sweethearts.”

Bauer is set to pay about $700 million for ProSiebenSat.1, which controls popular webs ProSieben and Sat.1 as well as Kabel 1 and news channel N24. Kirch Media’s film library, which is saddled with some $1.3 billion of debt, will likely be housed in a separate holding to be controlled by Bauer and creditors HypoVereinsbank, Commerzbank, DZ Bank and Bayern LB.

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