SBS Netherlands, Veronica to merge

V8 to be relaunched, TV mag will help build brand

AMSTERDAM — SBS Broadcasting (SBS Netherlands), owner of a three-channel network in Holland, and Veronica, whose assets include the biggest brand name in the history of Dutch media, are in the last stages of merger negotiations.

SBS Netherlands is the Dutch subsid of pan-Euro station group SBS Broadcasting and the second largest commercial network in the territory, behind Holland Media Group.

“I’ve been trying to pull this deal off for 2½ years, and I’ve finally done it,” said Fons Van Westerloo, general director of SBS Netherlands.

Veronica began life 43 years ago as a pirate radio station, then went legit and launched as a pubcaster before becoming a commercial channel.

It has been struggling to reposition itself after it bailed out from the HMG network and its recent relaunch failed due to weak programming.

Van Westerloo said due diligence on the merger was expected to begin this week. Plans are already in place for SBS’ channel V8 to relaunch as Veronica 8 on Sept. 1.

SBS’ three channels have historically been the biggest money earners of parent group SBS Broadcasting’s 11 European stations.

SBS will remain the majority shareholder in SBS Netherlands. De Telegraaf, Holland’s largest circulation newspaper, owns 30%.

While neither party would disclose Veronica Holding’s stake after the merger, it is believed to be less than 10%.

Van Westerloo said that aside from Veronica’s historical brand value, which he admitted had been slightly tarnished by its recent troubles, its most important asset was a 1 million-plus circulation weekly TV mag.

“With the support of this magazine, we are going to build Veronica into a big brand station with a large market share,” he added.

Several years ago, SBS negotiations with Veronica Holding for a partnership fell through, but not before SBS Netherlands optimistically christened a new channel about to launch at the time V8 in hopes it could later be changed to Veronica.

Veronica’s relaunch as a broadcaster has eaten heavily into its coffers. “This merger gets us back on air without costing us much,” said Cees van Steyn, chairman of the board of Veronica Holding, and it gets Veronica decent programming.

Among the SBS assets is a programming library believed to be worth several hundred million dollars.

Van Westerloo says Veronica 8 will kick off with the Dutch premiere of “Gladiator.” SBS has the rights to “Joe Millionaire,” and he said that may be used to draw auds at the station’s relaunch.