Teutons face new dealmaking reality

BERLIN — The sudden bankruptcy of the Kirch Group coupled with a stubborn advertising downturn spells lower prices for Hollywood product in the formerly red-hot market.

All of the Hollywood majors are holding their breath as the Kirch empire continues to unravel. Some of their long-term megabuck output deals will probably be back on the Teutonic market soon as Kirch is clearly unable to meet installments on these deals.

Free TV rights to Paramount movies and TV shows, for example, are up for grabs; Kirch defaulted on payments to the studio in the summer and the two erstwhile partners are in litigation.

Warner product — think “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” — is also available since that studio’s local partner, Kinowelt, went belly up last year.

“It’s the first time in around 26 years that the Paramount product has been on the market,” says August Rinner, RTL’s new head of program acquisitions and sales, who joined the channel from Austrian pubcaster ORF.

“The positive side for us,” he adds, “is that we can show the Americans that the money isn’t there anymore. In future we should be able to buy more for less.”

That view is echoed by Didier Bellens, CEO of the RTL Group, who has repeatedly taken issue with prices for movie and sports rights, insisting they must go down.

Bernd Schloetterer, Tele Munchen managing director, says channels should save money in the face of the ad market declines.

“Channels are in the process of reconsidering their programming strategies and people want to buy cheaper. There isn’t the hype in Germany anymore, what with the decline of the Neuer Markt and the Kirch Group as well as advertising.”

RTL and Tele Munchen, which will soon relaunch Tele 5 as an entertainment channel in Germany and also recently won the first commercial Austrian license, will be looking for product at Mip.

But Kirch’s ProSieben and SAT 1 are caught up in the dismantling of the parent company and are not likely to be in buying mode at Mip.

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