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Topper of Teuton net RTL 2 axed

Dismissal fueling speculation of new order in TV market

BERLIN — RTL 2 shareholders on Tuesday sacked Josef Andorfer, the web’s fiercely independent topper who had often butted heads with the station’s owners, including RTL Group boss Gerhard Zeiler and Tele Munchen Group’s Herbert Kloiber.

The dismissal has fueled speculation of a new order coming to Germany’s television market, including a possible grab by RTL Group for the 31.5% stake in RTL 2 jointly owned by Tele Munchen and Disney. Despite the name, RTL 2 is only 36% owned by RTL.

Andorfer’s dismissal is seen as an attempt to rein in the web. He had irked RTL by airing competitive programming against leading German web RTL Television and by pulling the station out of the RTL-owned sales agency IP Deutschland and launching its own ad company, El Cartel.

He also miffed Kloiber by refusing to buy the film dealer’s licensed product, opting instead for cheaper, popular reality programming such as “Big Brother” and “Wife Swap” clone “Frauentausch.”

Kloiber complained that “Big Brother” and similar fare, while garnering strong ratings, was repelling advertisers.

Although RTL 2 achieved record revenues under Andorfer’s management — last year revs grew more than 4% to $87 million — the web missed its $98 million target for 2004 and saw its market share narrow in the past six months, giving Andorfer’s bosses ample reason to call for his head.

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