BERLIN — The Kirch Group’s pay TV division filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, becoming the second major Kirch company to go bust in the past five weeks.
KirchPayTV is the parent of digital paybox Premiere, which did not file for insolvency. Premiere will continue to operate free of its parent company’s liabilities.
The bankruptcy had been expected after KirchMedia, its terrestrial TV and rights sister division, went bust in early April. KirchMedia was Premiere’s main content provider.
The pay web has been burning up nearly $2 million a day and last year racked up losses of nearly $800 million. Premiere’s failure to attract subscribers coupled with the high price of Hollywood output deals signed by Kirch in the 1990s dragged the Teuton media giant ever further into debt. Unable to meet credit payments, the core KirchMedia division was forced into receivership.
KirchPayTV encompasses a number of smaller companies, including Swiss pay service Tele Club.
Premiere chief Georg Kofler has been negotiating with potential investors, including 22% shareholder Rupert Murdoch and German media giant Bertelsmann. Murdoch, who stands to lose a $1.5 billion investment in the company, has long eyed the German pay TV market.
Kirch ready to consult
Meanwhile, Kirch Media’s new management looks set to rehire company founder and former chief exec Leo Kirch and ex-deputy CEO Dieter Hahn as consultants. Kirch and Hahn, who presided over the group during its downfall, will reportedly get a two-year contract worth $4.6 million, with Kirch expected to get a bigger lump of the sum.
German media union Connexx.av has blasted the expected move: “Now those responsible for driving the company into the ground get million-dollar contracts to untangle the entanglements they themselves created,” said spokesman Steffen Schmidt.
Kirch and Hahn still run the show at Kirch umbrella company Taurus, containing all three of its divisions.