Viacom eyeing Viva

B'caster would boost Euro musicvid reach

BERLIN — Viacom is reportedly set to offer E300 million ($360 million) for Viva Media, the financially troubled musicvideo broadcasting group and MTV’s main rival in Germany.

Move, through MTV International, would solidify Viacom’s hold on music TV in Germany, one of the world’s top three TV markets, and strengthen its hand in Europe.

In addition to two music outlets in Germany, the publicly listed Viva owns music nets in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland. It also owns TV production company Brainpool, one of Germany’s most successful format producers.

Viacom is conducting due diligence on Viva, but discussions are at a fragile stage and there is no assurance of agreement.

Cash-rich Viacom has been under pressure from Wall Street to make strategic acquisitions, preferably deals larger than this one. Conglom toppers have often said that international markets represent a key area of growth.

Last year, MTV Europe bought 50% of French videogame network Game One. In 2001, it bought Dutch group The Music Factory, its first international acquisition.

A buyout by Viacom would help struggling Viva, which is facing intense competition from MTV. Last week Viva reported a first-quarter operating loss of $3.1 million on revenues of $27.5 million.

Viva’s main shareholders, Time Warner (30.6%) and Vivendi Universal (15.3%) want to sell the company, which they no longer see as strategic.

Saban, RTL interested

Other potential buyers include RTL and Haim Saban, who owns German broadcasting group ProSiebenSat 1 and has expressed his interest in Viva. But Viacom is said to have bid more.

A Viacom takeover of Viva would have to win European Commission approval.

Acquisition speculation has helped double Viva’s share price over the past year; shares closed at $12.30 Monday, down nearly 5¢.

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