Premiere, DF1 near deal

BERLIN — Media giants Leo Kirch and Bertelsmann AG appear to be nearing an agreement for combining pay TV webs Premiere and DF1. Cooperation between DF1 and Premiere would give digital television a much needed push in Germany and across Europe as well.

Kirch and Bertelsmann unit CLT-UFA, which own 25% and 37.5% of Premiere respectively, are discussing buying out the stake of remaining shareholder Canal Plus, German news weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday. Kirch and Bertelsmann would then hold 50% each of Premiere, and would join the platforms of Premiere and DF1.

Kirch’s DF1 is Germany’s first digital pay TV platform, but has attracted only 40,000 subscribers since its launch last summer. Premiere, in which Bertelsmann has the upper hand, has nearly 1.5 million analog subscribers and has started digital pilot projects. But Kirch has inked pay TV output deals with most of the Hollywood majors, and Bertelsmann fears that Premiere could run out of premium films starting next year if no agreement with Kirch can be reached.

According to Der Spiegel, a meeting involving Kirch, Bertelsmann and cable gatekeeper Telekom AG is planned for Sunday. Kirch is likely to lose around $600 million a year on DF1, and his creditors are said to be pressuring him to come to terms with Bertelsmann.

Yet Bertelsmann board member Michael Dornemann remains vague about when a deal might be struck. “I want to and I will come to an agreement,” Dornemann told Der Spiegel. “If it will be this week or in a year, I don’t know.”

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