Bid likely to put ProSiebenSat 1 in competition with Premiere

BERLIN — Haim Saban’s ProSiebenSat 1 is making a play for pay TV.

Company is reportedly offering E600 million ($762 million) to the German Football League (DFL) for pay TV rights to the next three seasons of Bundesliga national league soccer.

The bid will likely put ProSiebenSat 1 in direct competition with its one-time sister company, Premiere, currently Germany’s only pay TV platform and holder of the Bundesliga pay TV rights. Premiere was looking to pay $216 million per season.

The DFL and ProSiebenSat 1 have declined to comment on the bid, but German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported the broadcasting group is looking to launch three to five digital pay channels that would offer sports, films, series and documentary reports, with Bundesliga pay TV rights as the cornerstone of the new platform.

Another possibility could be a direct investment in Premiere by ProSiebenSat 1, something industry observers have not ruled out. Like Premiere, ProSiebenSat 1 once was part of the now-defunct Kirch Group and Premiere’s chief exec, Georg Kofler, was head of ProSiebenSat 1′s flagship channel, ProSieben.

For Saban and his hand-picked chief operating officer at ProSiebenSat 1, Guillaume de Posch, a move into pay TV would not represent a foray into virgin territory. De Posch has plenty of experience in the field as former deputy managing director at Gallic satcaster TPS, and Saban sits on the supervisory board of TPS’ parent company, French broadcasting group TF1.

With German cable providers like Kabel Deutschland, which controls 60% of the country’s cable grid, and Ish in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia introducing broadband and a slew of new channels this year, pay TV, video-on-demand and other digital services are suddenly attracting the interest of established players who once shunned the very notion of feevee. Indeed, it was Premiere, originally a pet project of former mogul Leo Kirch, that nearly single-handedly brought down Kirch’s vast empire after burning up billions of euros.

Under new management and having renegotiated its output deals with Hollywood studios, Premiere has narrowed its losses considerably and retained its monopoly in the pay TV market.

For DFL, the expanded interest in pay TV rights means a possible halt to the drop in soccer rights prices, which have been on the decline for years. Pay TV rights account for more than half of DFL’s TV revenue.

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