Munich, Germany -- A company that has quickly become one of
the premier suppliers of children's programming in Germany widened its horizons
substantially by agreeing to buy The Jim Henson Co. last week.
Munich-based EM.TV & Merchandising AG will buy Los
Angeles-based Henson from the Henson family, which gets cash and a 5 percent interest in
EM.TV. Henson is one of the last American independent media groups focusing on family
entertainment. The deal is valued at $680 million.
Late last year, EM.TV chairman Thomas Haffa told Multichannel
News International he intended to buy into a U.S. media company with library and
But the Henson deal brings him much more. It perfectly fits
the company's focus on program and merchandising sales, and it also makes EM.TV an
increasingly important player in the network business, with holdings in the United States,
Asia and Germany.
Henson and Hallmark Entertainment jointly own Odyssey, A
Henson & Hallmark Entertainment Network, which can be seen in about 30 million U.S.
homes. Another joint venture with Hallmark, Kermit Channel, is up in Asia. And Henson owns
12.5 percent of the recently launched Noggin, a joint venture of Nickelodeon and
Children's Television Workshop.
Those services come atop Henson's considerable library
of programming, built on a foundation of its famous Muppet characters, as well as
In Germany, EM.TV owns 50 percent of kids' channels
Junior and K-Toon, which are carried on digital direct-to-home platform Premiere World,
available in 1 million households. Both channels are part of the Junior programming
venture with Germany's powerful The Kirch Group. Junior includes a library of 28,000
episodes of primarily animated programming.
Haffa termed the Henson deal "the most important in
the company's history." He said he intends to pay for the deal with a loan
recently placed in the market covering about two-thirds of the sum. The rest will be paid
in shares that are supposed to come from an increase in capital that has yet to occur.