B'caster to make repayments in installments
BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s leading broadcaster, Telefe, a unit of Telefonica’s Admira of Spain, has reached a deal to restructure its $50 million debt with major studios including Fox, Sony, Walt Disney and Warner Bros.“This was a problem that we had to resolve and we’ve done it,” said Jorge Perez Bello, chairman-CEO of the broadcaster. It will make repayments in installments to clear the debt, which stems from content purchases in 1997 and ’98, just before Telefonica acquired Telefe from investment fund CEI Citicorp Equity and publisher Editorial Atlantida. The restructuring comes six months after Disney’s Buena Vista Intl. filed a lawsuit against Telefe for allegedly failing to pay $4 million in license fees for programming and films. The debt deal clears the way for Telefe to boost content purchases and co-production deals with the studios. It is preparing to make an Argentine version of “The Nanny” in 2004 based on the Sony format. Telefe is seeing its fortunes improve. It maintained its 13-year ratings lead in 2003 with hits including telenovela “Resistire” (Forever Julia) and gamer “Trato hecho” (Deal or No Deal), and swung to profit for the first time since 1998 as Argentina recovered from a 35% ad slump in 2002. In the first nine months of 2003, Telefe reported a profit of 18.6 million pesos ($6.3 million) compared with a loss of 44.2 million pesos ($15.1 million) in the year-earlier period.