Nordic TV sale blurs picture

Media giants fight to expand TV empires

AMSTERDAM — The sale of Modern Times Group’s 15.1% stake in national commercial channel TV4 in Sweden to equity group Proventus Industrier will slow down Norwegian media giant Schibsted’s plans to increase its TV stakes in the Nordic territories.

Schibsted has recently boosted its stake in TV4 to 20.1%, with an additional 5.9% option. It also has launched a takeover bid for Alma Media, Finland’s second-largest media group and the owner of Finland’s largest commercial TV network, MTV3.

Independent equity group Proventus is believed to be friendly to Bonnier, which owns the largest stake of TV4 (27.7%) and the largest share (33%) in Alma Media. Its stake in the latter gives it an indirect 23.4% share in TV4 as well.

Major Nordic players — including Danish media giant Egmont, as well as Bonnier through its largest TV asset, TV4 — are hoping to acquire the license to the soon-to-be-privatized TV2 in Denmark.

All of Scandinavia’s national commercial channels — TV2 in Denmark, TV2 in Norway, TV4 in Sweden and MTV3 in Finland — were the first to be given full reach by their governments when TV was deregulated. All four have been more profitable than the satellite commercial outfits, but they have paid hefty license fees for that privilege.

The Nordic players are gathering ownership stakes to link three if not four of these national networks. If all four were linked up, analysts believe that it would form a regional powerhouse valued at more than $1.5 billion.