The Walt Disney Company is about to put its 50% stake in Germany’s kids and family channel Super RTL on the market. The sale comes after Super RTL incurred 1998 losses of US$22.1 million, however, the channel is expected to break even this year, with projected revenues of US$121 million. The 50% stake is poised for pick up by Super RTL’s other half-owner, Luxembourg-based CLT-Ufa, the joint TV holding of France’s Audiofina and Germany’s Bertelsmann AG, with an eye to combining all RTL branded channels under the roof of an umbrella holding to synergize production, distribution and marketing.
Last year, Disney claimed it would hold on to its stake in Super RTL, and signed a five-year licensing deal for its programs with the channel. But observers considered this a temporary delay in the process of relinquishing ties to the German family channel. Super RTL does not foresee any decline in viewership resulting from Disney’s exit, since the five-year programming contract will remain intact.
‘It all depends on the development of the digital Disney Channel in Germany that will launch this fall,’ says one pundit. ‘If the digital evolution towards pay TV continues to evolve at a slower rate than strategists at Kirch Group and its international channel providers predict, they still have the option to take a chance on another outlet to create German revenues.’
Starting October 1, Disney Channel Germany will acquire 330 hours of content a year for four years from EM.TV Junior to bolster its launch on Kirch Group’s digital pay TV bouquet in September. The licensing deal, which was announced in March, includes local German toon series like Maja the Bee.