ZDF buys stake in Bavaria subsid

Company produces ARD programs

BERLIN — In a highly controversial move, pubcaster ZDF has taken over 50% of Bavaria Fernsehproduktion, one of the many TV companies of the Bavaria Film entertainment group.

Bavaria Film, which is owned by fellow pubcaster ARD, declined to offer financial details of the deal, saying only the purchase price was in the single-digit millions.

The group spun off Bavaria Fernsehproduktion — which oversees all of Bavaria’s Munich-based TV production activities — into a separate holding during a company-wide restructuring in February.

The division produces ARD daily soaps and series such as “Marienhof” and “Sturm der Liebe,” as well as ZDF shows such as “Die Rosenheim-Cops” and TV movies based on the novels of popular scribe Inga Lindstroem.

According to Bavaria Film, the Fernsehproduktion unit has an annual revenue of some Euros 75 million ($102 million) — or about 3% of the total German TV market.

The local film and TV industry has criticized the move, claiming the ARD-ZDF joint venture would lock out competition.

German producers’ association Film20 had called on state government leaders to block the ZDF purchase.

Film20 general secretary Georgia Tornow described the move as “audacious,” saying it was a “clear financial threat to independent producers.”

Bavaria Film topper Matthias Esche has dismissed the criticism as a mere “wail” and “general rhetoric.”

“It’s not about expansion, but rather stabilizing an existing business,” he added.

With a combined annual budget of some $7 billion, ARD and ZDF by far outweigh commercial rivals. Through companies like Bavaria, which owns more than a dozen production subsidiaries, and Studio Hamburg, ARD already holds a dominant position in the country’s TV production market.

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