Energy drink giant swallows Austrian channel

This article was updated at 1:41 p.m.

Austrian-Thai energy drink giant Red Bull is expanding into television with the takeover of Austrian regional channel Salzburg TV.

Austrian-based Red Bull owns a growing number of sports assets, including Formula One teams Red Bull Racing (previously Jaguar) and Scuderia Toro Rosso (previously Minardi) as well as the Red Bull Air Race World Series event.

Red Bull purchased 95% of the web from Austrian banks Raiffeisen and Spaengler and the Salzburg Economic Chamber.

The previous owners took over the broadcaster in 2004 and have since restructured the web. The parties declined to provide financial details of the deal.

Salzburg TV is available on cable and free to air in northwestern Austria and southern Germany, reaching some 760,000 households, and it is set to broaden its reach via satellite throughout Europe. The broadcaster is preparing its application for a digital satellite license and considering German cable distribution.

Red Bull has played down the acquisition, saying the move was made in response to a request to ensure that the broadcaster remain in Austrian hands rather than out of any financial interests in the channel.

Nevertheless, move increases Red Bull’s media holdings, which include publishing group Red Bulletin Verlag and the Seitenblicke mag.

Red Bull has long been rumored to have an eye on a TV expansion. In addition to its Formula One teams, company owns soccer clubs Red Bull Salzburg as well as Red Bull New York, formerly MetroStars.

Red Bull has sold TV rights to its Red Bull Air Race World Series to some 70 broadcasters nationwide, including Fox Sports in the U.S., Germany’s RTL Television and Channel 4 in the U.K.

Company recently denied reports that it was considering a strategic investment in German paybox Premiere.

Red Bull’s revenue in 2005 was up 30% to E2.14 billion ($2.8 billion) with a profit of $546 million, while 2006 revenue is forecasted at some $4 billion.

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