SBS’ Scandi feevee deal cleared

14-year-old entity pushed up net revs 17%

AMSTERDAM — Regulators have greenlit Euro TV group SBS Broadcasting’s $360 million purchase of the C More Group, which owns paybox C More Entertainment, Canal Plus’ Nordic pay TV operations.

SBS made the announcement in an investor conference call Tuesday at its Amsterdam headquarters during which it also reported major boosts in earnings last year.

The 14-year-old entity pushed up its net revenues 17% to E678 million ($905 million) while net profit jumped from $40 million in 2003 to $67 million in 2004. Station operating cash flow shot up 36% to $160 million.

Improved numbers were ascribed largely to revenue growth that outpaced the market and higher viewer figures across most of its 11 stations.

SBS executive board chairman and founder Harry Evans Sloan said in the call that competition authorities in Norway and Sweden had approved the C More deal. The pay TV ops span four territories, but no clearance was required from Denmark and Finland. C More has 770,000 subscribers.

CEO Marcus Tellenbach said C More would launch pay TV channels in other territories in continental Europe.

SBS also will launch its first VOD service in Sweden; others will follow in the remaining Nordic territories and elsewhere.

After upping its minority stake in Romanian net Prima TV to 86%, SBS plans to invest in more channels in Central and Eastern Europe.

Sloan added, however, that SBS would not, unlike its rival Modern Times Group, invest in Russia.

“The strategy is to invest in territories that will become, or already are, a member of the EU. We doubt Russia will fall into that category,” Sloan said.

Tellenbach added that in the next three to five years, SBS expects 50% of its net revenues to come from nonadvertising-related sources, among them pay TV. He predicted SBS net revenues in 2005 at $1.2 billion.

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