TV mogul gets a leg up on new venture

De Mol kicks off fight for soccer rights

Dutch media mogul John de Mol‘s latest stock-buying frenzy has triggered much speculation about what the Endemol cofounder is playing at.

The answer, it seems, is soccer.

De Mol could make history Dec. 22 if he, through his investment outfit Talpa Capital, wins terrestrial TV rights to Dutch Premier League soccer.

The rights have belonged to pubcasters for 40 years and if they go to De Mol would virtually guarantee the success of his Talpa TV venture, which is set to bow in August as a 6-11 p.m. programming block on MTV Networks’ subsid, Nickelodeon.

De Mol, who cofounded Endemol 10 years ago and left it May 1, last week upped his stake in Internet outfit Versatel to 41.7%, among a slew of other investments.

Standard explanation for De Mol’s moves is he’s interested in the synergies of these companies in a multiplatform media world, “but they are only investments,” says spokesman Thomas Notermans.

However, Versatel is going after pay TV rights for the Dutch Premier League — and that can’t hurt on the synergy front.

If de Mol wins the bid for the Premier League rights, he may need production backup, one of the reasons he’s said to be eyeing WK Produkties, which specializes in producing soccer footage.

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