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Kirch, CLT-Ufa unveil merger details

BERLIN — Media giants CLT-UFA and the Kirch Group revealed on Thursday initial details of the planned merger of their pay-TV activities in Germany.

Pay-TV channel Premiere, the DF1 channels, sports web DSF, digital technology company Beta Digital and other pay-TV interests will be organized into a group led by a common management board.

Kirch Group managing director Dieter Hahn has been named chairman of the group; but deputy Arnold Bahlmann, currently senior VP Central Europe at BMG, will take over the position of chairman from Hahn by the end of 1998. Gottfried Zmeck, currently helmer at Kirch’s digital pay-TV platform DF1, will join Ferdinand Kayser in managing Premiere.

Premiere will continue to be based in Hamburg, while the broadcasting center and DSF will be located at Kirch headquarters near Munich. The new organization will go into effect following approval by EU and German cartel authorities. Hahn and CLT-UFA chairman Rolf Schmidt-Holtz said on Thursday that the contracts concerning the integration of their pay-TV activities are nearing completion and would be submitted to regulators shortly.

Ending a prolonged battle for control of the pay-TV market in Germany, the Kirch Group and CLT-UFA (a joint venture of Bertelsmann AG, Luxembourg broadcaster CLT and the WAZ Group) agreed last June to take equal stakes in pay-TV web Premiere, buying out partner Canal Plus. In August, Kirch and CLT-UFA announced the merger of the unsuccessful DF1 with Premiere, a premium movie and sports channel with 1.6 million analog subscribers. Premiere has begun digital broadcasts in Germany on the basis of pilot project licenses, and the partners plan to turn the web into a digital platform with up to 50 channels starting next year.

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