Premiere pursues Sat1 takeover

Pay TV platform expands into free zone

Pay TV platform Premiere looks set to flex its newfound muscle with an expansion into free TV and is eying Sat.1 for a possible takeover.

Premiere topper Michael Boernicke told German financial daily Hanelsblatt Monday the addition of a free TV web would help bring the paybox forward, adding that the group is looking to double or even triple overall revenue from its current 1 billion euros ($1.57 billion).

Such a move would create a third major free TV player in Germany besides ProSiebenSat1 and RTL, provide Premiere with the necessary growth and help pull the paybox out of the red.

“We are interested in buying Sat1,” Boernicke said. “The Berlin-based broadcaster would be an ideal fit.”

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. boosted its stake in Premiere to 22.7% last week and the new heavyweight shareholder appears eager to radically improve the paybox’s position in Germany, where the platform has struggled with sluggish subscriptions and net losses since its start.

The only problem is that Sat1 is not for sale, according to parent group ProSiebenSat1.

“We do not intend to sell and are not in talks to that effect,” said a Sat1 spokeswoman.

Yet Sat1 has suffered substantial ratings and ad losses in recent years and is in desperate need of a major programming overhaul, something that could be too time-consuming and costly for ProSiebenSat1’s owners, private equity investors Permira and KKR.

NBC Universal has its free TV weblet Das Vierte on the block, but Boernicke said that channel is just too small. “That wouldn’t help us. We want to grow significantly in the next two to three years.”

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