Programmers Position Themselves in Germany


Dusseldorf, Germany-Television-industry players here are busy adjusting their channel holdings as consolidation takes an increasing hold on the market.

That was one of the main issues that came to light at the TeleMesse TV convention held here last month.

At the same time, channel owners are busy eyeing such genres as news and youth-oriented programming.

The activity comes amid some heady mergers in the industry and News Corp.'s entry into the country's distribution market. The world's No. 4 media company recently acquired a 24 percent stake in KirchPayTV, which owns the once-fledgling Premiere World digital direct-to-home platform.

While the TeleMesse show attracted about 40 advertiser-supported channels, most of them are expected to be controlled by just a handful of groups over the coming years.

IP Deutschland GmbH, one of the biggest players at the show, represented The RTL Group's family of channels, as well as entertainment channel Vox.

At the same time, two of Germany's largest television programmers-ProSieben Media AG and SAT.1-are merging their operations as a wholly owned unit of Kirch. In addition to their flagship channels, they control entertainment programmer Kabel1 and news channel n-24.

The women's channel acquired by News Corp. earlier this year, tm3, is expected to become part of the ProSieben/SAT.1 camp, Kirch executives said. Media-industry experts and tm3 officials said the deal will likely involve some sort of equity swap that would give News Corp. a stake in KirchPayTV parent Kirch Media.

More changes are in store for tm3. In January, it's likely to be renamed Sun TV and programmed to target the "Internet" generation, which includes 14- to 29-year-olds, general manager Marco Deutsch said, declining to comment on any changes in its ownership structure.

Sun TV will compete with the likes of MTV Germany, music-video channel Viva and Internet-oriented NBC Giga, and it would fill a gap in the ProSieben/SAT.1 stable, as well as augmenting Kirch's lineup.

RTL is looking to expand into news, and it is in talks to buy into n-TV, a news channel owned by Time Warner Inc., German newspaper group Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt and others, RTL officials said earlier this year.

"We want to become a player in the field of news channels, and right now, we are investigating the options," RTL director of information Hans Mahr said at the show, declining to elaborate.

Other options range from setting up its own news channel to cooperating with an established international venture such as CNBC or BBC World.

However, some n-TV officials say they doubted that an equity arrangement would work. They noted that RTL and n-TV target very different demographics, and they would not be able to share many costs-a synergy that would be necessary for any sort of deal.