Germany's biggest pay TV channel Premiere is branching into free television with its purchase of the rights to show Uefa Champions League soccer games.

It says it will launch or buy a free-TV channel to broadcast at least 13 of the 125 matches in the competition, including the final.

Says ceo Georg Kofler: "The new channel will generate advertising revenue and is also an ideal tool to promote our pay-TV offerings."

The move is part of Kofler's strategy to bring the TV company back into the black after its losses of €1.2bn ($1.46bn; £820m) in 2001 brought about the spectacular collapse of the Kirch media empire.

The group has 3.3 million subscribers to its services in Germany and Austria and forecasts 4m customers by the end of 2007.

Premiere has paid around €150m for the rights to show the games, beating rivals ProSiebenSat.1 - now being taken over by publisher Axel Springer - and Bertelsmann's RTL. If Premiere does not have a free channel on which to air the matches by 2006, Uefa has the right to strike a new deal with another broadcaster.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff