MUNICH: Germany’s stock exchange hotshot (and one of the still rare media companies in that market that went public), EM.TV & Merchandising wants to expand its global reach via proposed retail stores, blocks and channels.
Towards the goal of international growth, the company recently took over the 50% stake of Australian animation studio Yoram Gross that was originally owned by Village Road Show. The company will be named Yoram Gross-EM.TV Pty Ltd. to reflect the partial purchase. ‘This is only one step in our strategy to become an international player,’ says EM.TV’s chairman Thomas Haffa. During the past year, the group has opened up affiliates in the Benelux, an office in China and 50/50 joint ventures in France with TeleImage and in Spain with LUK. ‘We will announce more of these ventures in the coming months,’ says Haffa, not giving any further details. Last fall, the group announced plans to open an office in New York sometime this year.
EM.TV is also in negotiations with various international TV channels to launch branded windows of kids programming from EM.TV’s Junior label library, which was beefed up by a recent 50/50 joint venture giving EM.TV full access to the German Kirch Group’s animation stock.
Prior to this venture, EM.TV had already more than doubled its animation stock from 1,800 half hours at the time of the IPO to 4,000 half hours 14 months later. Haffa says the Junior deal with Kirch Group further strengthened this position to 24,000 half hours of animation. But only about 9,500 half hours, including Pippi Longstocking, can be sold internationally. Others, such as The Flintstones and the Tom & Jerry classics, are only available for German-speaking territories or for a limited amount of time.
Haffa is working on turning the Junior label into an international brand. A Junior Channel, which launched as part of Germany’s digital DF1 bouquet in the summer of 1996, is currently seen by 320,000 subscribers. Haffa says the first branded program block on German free TV should soon follow, as negotiations with potential channels are under way. Another ambitious project on the EM.TV slate is the launch of about 350 to 400 Junior branded toy stores. Haffa indicates that after the German retail outlet network has launched, international expansion of this concept could be next on the agenda, but he would not divulge further particulars concerning time frame or locations for either retail project.
EM.TV has promised a lot. One reason the group was able to make the Junior deal with Kirch Group was the incentive that they would be able to make better use of the library than Kirch was able to in the past, says Haffa’s brother Florian, who is also on the EM.TV board, and in charge of the group’s finances.
Haffa’s more immediate goal for this month’s MIP-TV? ‘We will try to make the Junior brand the first thing they see at the airport and the last before they fall asleep.’