News Corp has bought into Premiere, paying €287 million for a 14.58 % stake previously held by Unitymedia and making it the company’s largest shareholder. It followed renewed speculation that Canal Plus owner Vivendi might be about to launch a takeover bid for the German pay-TV platform.
Unity acquired the stake in February last year through its Arena programming subsidy. The holding was part of the settlement reached between Unity and Premiere over rights to Bundesliga football.
News Corp now runs TV operations in the UK, Italy, Spain and parts of Central & East Europe including Bulgaria and Poland. “Pay-TV is a core business for News Corp. and it’s a category that’s thriving across Europe with a multitude of new services and innovations,” said News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch in a perepared statement. “We see enormous potential for growth in Germany.”
BSkyB, in which News Corp currently holds a 39% stake, took a 24% stake in the then Premiere World in 1999. However, it later took advantage of an exit clause to withdraw from the market as the financial problems of former owner Leo Kirch continued to grow. News Corp is also a former shareholderin the Vox network, where it once held a 49% stake.