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Dutch spat nears end

First time duo has agreed to arbitration

AMSTERDAM — A longstanding dispute over a 10-year programming production deal between Holland Media Group (HMG) and Endemol Netherlands, the Dutch subsidiary of pan-continental format cruncher Endemol, will end in arbitration.

The complaints to be arbitrated remain confidential, but one of the issues is expected to be the number of programs HMG must buy per year from Endemol under the deal, which ends in 2005.

The pair has slugged it out in court many times, mainly over format infringement complaints, but this is the first time they have agreed to arbitration.

It will take place in the next few months, and both have said they will abide by the decision of the three-person panel.

The disputes between HMG and Endemol have increased over the last few years as HMG’s inhouse production company Holland Media House steps up efforts to rival Endemol in the Netherlands.

Arbitration is preferable to a court fight for Endemol, which is in talks to renew a long-term agreement with RTL in Germany.

Both RTL in German and HMG are subsidiaries of the RTL Group, and while the two deals are unrelated, a fractious atmosphere between Endemol and the RTL Group is less than desirable.

Endemol has admitted some of the reason it is laying off nearly a third of its workforce in Holland is increasing competition on its own homefront.

Endemol Netherlands is just one of the holding company’s subsidiaries in 22 countries and on five continents, but it is considered a pivotal one since many of the original formats are tested in Holland.

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