Just days before MIPTV, European commercial broadcaster CLT-UFA and London-based production company Pearson Television announced plans to consolidate interests (pending government approval). The new broadcast and content entity, valued at almost US$20 billion, will combine access to more than 120 million viewers (CLT-UFA has shares in 22 TV channels) and production of more than 10,000 hours of programming per year. CLT-UFA is jointly held by European media companies Bertelsmann and Audiofina.
Didier Bellens, chief executive of CLT-UFA, will head up the as-yet-unnamed entity. Richard Eyre, chief exec of Pearson Television, will become executive director responsible for content and directing the new group’s development and strategy. According to the terms of the agreement, Pearson has been guaranteed at least a 20% stake in the new company, while 11% will be publicly traded. Pearson’s director of communications Roy Addison says the merger was a logical step forward since Pearson and CLT-UFA have long worked together in both Germany and the U.K. The companies are also two of the original shareholders in the U.K.’s Channel 5, and currently own 65% of the channel between them. What are the implications for Channel 5? ‘It will probably mean a new chairman and it will probably mean we will support their claims for further investment in the programming. Beyond that, it shouldn’t really change much,’ Addison says.
The question on everyone’s mind is, which company will be next absorbed into the fold? Bellens and Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middlehoff have already expressed an interest in some kind of alliance with French pay-TV channel Canal+, though nothing has yet been confirmed. They also appear to be keeping a close eye on opportunities in North America.