BERLIN — German pay TV web Premiere scored a double whammy Tuesday by signing a multi-year output deal with MGM and acquiring a film package from Warner Bros. that includes “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which is already skedded for Christmas.
The agreement with MGM follows similar arrangements made with DreamWorks, Fox and Universal since the collapse of parent company Kirch Pay TV in May. The pact provides Premiere with all of MGM’s theatrical fare, including the newest James Bond pic “Die Another Day,” “Legally Blonde” and “Barbershop.” As part of the agreement, the multi-channel digital platform will also launch an MGM channel next year. Similar to its two Universal channels, the new outlet will air fare from MGM’s vast library.
While Premiere has initially settled for a film package from Warners, Premiere chief exec Georg Kofler told Daily Variety he would continue negotiations with the studio next year for a more long-term arrangement.
“We have output deals, we buy film packages, it’s important for us to have a flexible approach,” Kofler said, adding that the move bypassed complicated deal making.
Kofler would not comment on price but said both agreements were fair and made under new conditions that reflected realistic market prices and were in line with similar deals with other studios.
Premiere will begin offering “Harry Potter” on pay-per-view during Christmas with a regular pay TV premiere scheduled for early next year.
Premiere also nabbed pay-per-view and pay TV rights to other Warner titles such as German animated hit “The Little Polar Bear,” “Training Day” and “Swordfish.” For the moment, the broadcaster has only pay-per-view rights to Warners’ mega hits “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and “Rush Hour 2,” although Kofler said he expected to get pay TV rights to the films at a later stage.
“After a period of uncertainty, the new Premiere has again become an important and reliable partner in Germany for U.S. studios,” Kofler said.
Jeffrey Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. Int’l Television Distribution, added: “We believe in the future of pay television in Germany. By making this deal with Premiere, we are pleased to help them maintain their promise to subscribers to supply the best of Hollywood films in the marketplace… and, as a result, aid in their ability to sustain, and possibly grow, their subscriber base.”
Simon Kenny, WBITD’s senior VP, Europe, Sylvia Rothblum, WBITD’s managing director for German-speaking territories and Premiere managing director Hans Seger negotiated the deal.
For Germany’s only paybox, the deals are also a much-needed signal to potential investors that it remains a viable player — and an attractive investment. Six interested groups are currently circling the paybox, which is undergoing due diligence and holding Q&A sessions with potential buyers. Kofler said the sale of Premiere was in the advanced stages, adding that he was optimistic a deal would be completed by the end of the year.
The broadcaster has faced an uphill battle since its digital relaunch in 1999. Indeed, its failure to attract necessary subscribers helped bankrupt the entire Kirch Group, which lost nearly $1 billion on the venture last year.