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Business

Suitors Eye Kirch's Pay-TV Unit, Bundesliga Rights

The head of the Kirch group's pay-TV channel says he plans to take a stake in the unit, while media mogul Herbert Kloiber has his eye on the Kirch's broadcasting rights to Germany's premier soccer league.

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Premiere is deep in the red

In the latest development surrounding the financial woes of media giant Kirch Group, the head of the group's pay-TV channel, Premiere, said he plans to take a stake in the unit, while media mogul Herbert Kloiber has his eye on buying the broadcasting rights to Germany's premier soccer league if the current owner, the insolvent Kirch-Media arm, goes bust.

Kofler, a long-standing ally of Leo Kirch and former head of Kirch's broadcaster ProSieben, told news channel n-tv that he was aiming to take a stake of around a one-digit percentage in Premiere, but only once the loss-making channel had been put on a new and solid base.

Kofler said he was currently in talks with Bertelsmann AG as well as with Deutsche Telekom AG about their respective plans to invest in Premiere.

Kofler also confirmed that he is negotiating with Herbert Kloiber, who after Leo Kirch owns the biggest film library in Germany. Kloiber's interest in pay-TV in Germany is well known. But his earlier plans to launch three pay-TV channels in regional cable networks this Spring were shelved because of technical restrictions.

Separately, Kloiber said Tuesday that he expected to have a decision in around a fortnight on the future of the broadcasting rights to Germany's premier soccer league, the Bundesliga.

As a result of the looming insolvency of Kirch-Media, the 36 soccer clubs stand to lose their most important source of revenue.

Kloiber said he was confident that he would be able to acquire the rights for free-TV. He said his efforts to acquire Bundesliga broadcasting rights had been well documented. "But in the past we were just used to drive up the price," Kloiber, an arch rival of Leo Kirch, said. "The price charged for the rights will now have to take account of the changes in market conditions," he added.

Industry experts believe that the Bundesliga rights, excluding pay-TV, are worth less than 200 million euro. Including pay-TV, a premium of 100 million euro at the most could be expected. In the 2000/2001 season, Kirch still paid around 355 million euro for the complete rights.

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