- Following News Corp’s disappointing quarterly results announcement on November 8, and an 11.8 per cent single day drop in News Corp’s stock price to $38 (E44.21) a share, it is widely reported that Rupert Murdoch is now aggressively pursuing the former GM/Hughes Electronics satellite pay-TV division of DirecTV as part of his overall strategy for Sky Global Newtorks. For the quarter ended September 30, News Corp reported a loss of $268 million, or 27 cents per share (in the form of ADR’s), compared with net income of $165 million, or 16 cents per ADR in the same period a year ago. Operating profit fell to $390 million from $395 million. Revenue was $3.24 billion, up from $3.16 billion. ADR is equal to four conventional News Corp shares. One option being considered is using Hughes/DirecTV as the host vehicle of a series of mergers, including bringing in Star TV, BSkyB and News Corp’s other satellite-related assets in Japan and Latin America.
- German public broadcaster ZDF has bought a package with 21 movies from Munich-based media group Kinowelt, among them 19 titles from Warner Bros. The rights include the German free-to-air TV premieres of Batman & Robin with Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney and Uma Thurman, science fiction drama Contact with Jodie Foster and the Mel Gibson thriller Payback. No financial details were disclosed. According to Kinowelt, the company is also in talks with ZDF about selling to pubcaster a larger package with international movies from Kinowelt’s stock.
- Russian oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky, head of Media-Most, which is at the centre of political and business controversy, was charged with fraud this Monday after he ignored a prosecutor’s summons for questioning. The prosecutor general’s office issued a warrant for Gusinsky’s arrest, and deputy chief prosecutor Vasily Kolmogorov warned that Gusinsky may be put on an international wanted list, reported AP. Gusinsky is one of the oligarchs that appear to have lost favour with the Kremlin under president Vladimir Putin. Genri Reznik, Gusinsky’s lawyer, said the businessman was overseas and refused to appear Monday because he feared a repeat of an earlier session where he was unexpectedly jailed. “My client doesn’t want to become the victim of arbitrary persecution, and inflict new suffering on his family,” Reznik said. Prosecutors accuse Gusinsky of misrepresenting assets in his Media-Most group when he accepted loans of more than $300 million (349.03m) guaranteed by Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom. They said Gusinsky’s companies were legally bankrupt. Media-Most officials deny the charges, and Gusinsky has accused the Kremlin of using Gazprom, which is partly state-owned, to pressure Media-Most, owner of the country’s largest independent television station. The gas giant has dismissed the claim.
- South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is planning to bring a ‘best of’ channel to Europe, and eventually North America, in the Spring of next year. SABC’s Andre Ackerman has been in London this week concluding a representation contract with Inview Media, which already handles a portfolio of Asian and speciality channels. Interspace understands SABC has an April target date for carriage on Sky Digital, as well as digital cable, subject to carriage agreements.
- Eutelsat will open a new main German office in Cologne this month. The office will be headed by Henning Horst, who was appointed manager Deutschland by the Paris-based satellite operator with immediate effect. According to a statement, Eutelsat aims to increase its business activities in Germany ahead of the privatisation in July 2001.
- Giga TV, the German computer channel which shares its cable and satellite capacity with English-language NBC Europe, intends to increase its transmission time. According to a spokeswoman, a video game show is scheduled to start at the end of this month in which, for the first time on German television, the viewers can play against each other through the Internet with the course of the game being shown on live on TV. It is planned to air the show between 20:00 and 22:00 CET.