Talk of potential deals swept Europe's TV industry last
week, with some of it written off as just that: talk.
Published reports said Kirch Media KGaA, a unit of
Germany's Kirch Group, is eyeing a stake in France-based pay TV heavyweight Canal Plus
S.A. That followed other reports citing an interest in Canal Plus from Bertelsmann A.G.,
also of Germany.
The companies involved could not be reached for comment.
In July, French utility Vivendi S.A. increased its stake in
Canal Plus, with the aim of selling back some of its stake to a partner that could
"strengthen Canal Plus's international strategy," Canal Plus CEO Pierre Lescure
said in a prepared statement. However, he indicated that the company is looking for a
partner without a major presence in Europe.
At the same time, Kirch has indicated it had spoken with
Canal Plus about bringing that channel into the "Eureka" European-TV alliance it
forged with Italy's Mediaset.
Other reports from Europe quoted Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin
Talal saying that Viacom Inc. chairman Sumner Redstone asked him to broker a deal in which
Viacom would buy into Kirch.
But sources at Viacom said there's no deal and claimed to
be "very surprised" at the news. A Kirch spokesman said he was unaware of any
In 1996, Viacom and Kirch inked a $2 billion deal which
gave Kirch broadcast and pay TV rights to all Paramount Pictures film and TV product in
German-speaking territories. Such a large deal could make Viacom's need for a middleman
questionable, were it to buy into Kirch.