Kirch Chaos: Pay-TV Arm Avoids Insolvency, But For How Long?

10 April 2002

Reports yesterday that KirchPayTV would follow KirchMedia (both units of German media empire Kirch Gruppe) into filing for insolvency [WAMN: 09-Apr-02] turned out to be premature – though perhaps by only a few days.

The pay-TV unit – owner of lossmaking platform Premiere World, whose failure contributed significantly to the collapse of Leo Kirch’s media fiefdom – managed an eleventh-hour escape after one of its shareholders requested new talks about refinancing.

Speculation quickly mounted that the investor in question was Rupert Murdoch’s British satellite-TV firm BSkyB, which already owns 22% of KirchPayTV.

However, Sky promptly quashed rumours that it was planning a takeover. The UK firm insisted it was solely concerned with getting its money back, having previously decided to exercise an option forcing the buyback of its stake for €1.7 billion ($1.5m; £1m).

Unless a white knight appears on the horizon soon, KirchPayTV is expected to complete the insolvency filing in the next few days.

Meanwhile, German chancellor Gerhard Schröder hinted that some foreign involvement in Kirch would be acceptable. “I wouldn't have any objections if someone like Rupert Murdoch gets involved in pay-TV in Germany,” he told the Financial Times.

Significantly, his invitation stretches only to the failed pay-TV division. The prospect of foreign tycoons such as Murdoch or Silvio Berlusconi gaining control of KirchMedia, whose assets include broadcast giant ProSiebenSat.1, has prompted howls of dismay from across the German establishment.

Schröder also announced the government would be prepared to intervene to help prevent redundancies at Kirch, no doubt balking at the idea of having 10,000 jobs put at risk in an election year.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK);; additional content by WARC staff