Chris Dziadul looks at Polsat – past, present and future
Polsat holds a unique position in Polish broadcasting. The country’s first national commercial TV station, it made its debut in the early 1990s and has remained a key player in a rapidly changing marketplace ever since.
Its owner Zygmunt Solorz-Zak is believed to have started looking for a strategic investor almost a decade ago and held talks with the likes of News Corp., Silvio Berlusconi and Bertelsmann – to name but three – over the years. Although his search finally appeared to have come to an end at the end of 2006, when it was announced that Axel Springer had agreed to buy a 25.1% stake in the company for €250 million, the deal was subsequently put on hold following a ruling by the Polish Competition Office (UOKiK).
Despite rumours to the contrary, Solorz-Zak has indicated that he remains committed to the deal. It could certainly still go through, with the German company paying more than the fee initially agreed, though there is an end-of-year deadline for this to happen.
And something certainly has to happen, given the situation that is currently developing in the Polish TV industry. Polsat still remains in a strong position, both in the terrestrial sector and in DTH, where Cyfrowy Polsat has emerged as the clear market leader, but cannot rest on its laurels.
It already faces strong competition from TVN and a public broadcaster that despite its many problems still claims a combined audience share of around 50% for its channels, and may soon also have to contend with an expansive News Corp, which has ambitious plans for its regional station TV Puls.
Polsat already has one eye on an IPO to be held next year, and the acquisition of TV4, with which it already has close links, is on the agenda. Should the deal with Axel Springer fall through, there is unlikely to a shortage of other potential partners – local, as well as foreign – for the station.