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SBS and CME

Overview

This profile considers European broadcasters SBS Broadcasting and CME.


It covers -

  • overview
  • early history
  • CME
  • expansion into radio and print
  • holdings
  • studies

SBS is not related to the Australian public sector broadcaster of the same name and profiled elsewhere on this site.

Overview

Luxembourg-based SBS Broadcasting, established in 1989 as TV1, has the second-largest European broadcasting footprint (with a target audience of 100 million people in nine markets). Its television operations date from 1990; the group now has interests in 10 top tier TV stations in seven European countries. Its radio arm was established in 1994 and now encompasses interests in 53 stations in five countries. The group also includes Veronica magazine, the largest Netherlands TV/Radio guide.

In 2005 it announced agreement for its acquisition by junkbond vendor KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) - responsible for Primedia - and Permira.

The SBS Broadcasting corporate site is here.

Early history

The group traces its origins to New World Pictures, established by Roger Corman (b. 1926) in 1970 and responsible for productions such as Little Shop of Horrors, The Bees and Deathrace 2000. New World was acquired by lawyer Harry Sloan, Larry Kupin and Larry Thompson in 1983, went public and then expanded through acquisition of Highgate Pictures, Learning Corporation of America and Marvel (later Marvel Entertainment Group) which included Marvel Comics and the DePatie-Freleng Enterprises animation studio. It also moved into television production and international film distribution. New World revenue grew from US$8 million to around US$400m but faced financial difficulties and was acquired by raider Ronald Perelman.

Sloan then formed TV1, using proceeds from sale of his New World stake. In 1989 TV1 bought 60% of Copenhagen pay-TV station Kanal2, 25% of Norwegian cable and satellite channel TV Norge, 75% of Nordic Channel (Sweden), 25% of TVStockholm and TV Malmo (Sweden). In 1991 TV1 became the Scandinavian Broadcasting System (SBS).

CME

SBS went public in 1993, expanding into radio and into television in central and southern Europe. A US$615m merger with Central European Media Enterprises (CME), controlled by Ronald Lauder was announced but did not proceed. Lauder was an heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune and a former US ambassador.

CME had been launched in 1994 by Lauder (with 99% of the equity) and former Czech dissident Dr Vladimir Zelezny. It initially provided capital and programming for Czech television channel TV Nova. The Nova licence was held by Zelezny through CET 21. Lauder took CME public late in 1994, raising US$71 million. On the basis of Nova's market share (over 65% within a year) and initial profitability - reported as US$1 million per week (on Lauder's initial investment of US$140 million) - CME expanded into television markets in Slovakia, Romania, the Ukraine and other former Soviet-bloc states.

Those operations haemorrhaged; Lauder sought a merger with SBS Broadcasting but fell out with Zelezny, who refused to relinquish the licence for the most profitable part of CME and allegedly engaged in asset stripping. The deal collapsed in a welter of international lawsuits and appeals. CME sued Zelezny for U$300 million and the Czech state for US$500 million at the International Commerce Court of Arbitration in Stockholm. Lauder also successfully claimed that Czech government intervention had breached the bilateral US-Czech investment treaty. In 2001 the Stockholm Tribunal ruled in favor of CME, with the Czech government being ordered to paid CME over US$350 million (an amount equal to the annual budget of the Ministry of Health). CME regained control of Nova and of the crucial licence.

As of 2004 CME operations (wholly controlled or joint ventures with local partners) included TV Nova in the Czech Republic, Nova TV in Croatia, PRO TV, Acasa and PRO CINEMA in Romania, Markiza TV in the Slovak Republic, POP TV and Kanal A in Slovenia and Studio 1+1 in Ukraine. Lauder and his family have 20% of the equity and 71% of the voting power.

In August 2006 Lauder sold half his stake in CME to Apax for US$190 million.

Expansion into radio and print

In 2000 SBS expanded its alliance with Amsterdam-based cable tv operator United Pan-Europe Communications (UPC), in which Liberty had a dominant stake. A US$2.8 billion takeover of SBS by UPC later that year did not proceed. In 2001 it formed a European television joint venture with News Corporation. (News' Fox network was based on stations acquired from New World Communications, a successor to Sloan's New World Pictures.)

Later in the decade it consolidated its operations, selling minority stakes, buying new stations and moving to full ownership of particular stations/networks. It acquired Veronica Magazine, a Netherlands version of the US TV Guide spawned by the former pirate broadcaster Veronica.

Holdings

SBS Broadcasting television interests include -

  • Kanal5
  • NET5
  • Prima TV
  • SBS6
  • TV2
  • Irisz
  • KANAL 5
  • tv danmark
  • TVNorge
  • Veronica
  • VT4
  • VIJFtv
  • BTI - subtitling service

Radio interests include -

  • 106.7 FM Rockklassiker
  • Studio 107,5
  • Iskelma Radio
  • Kiss FM
  • SBS Finland
  • Pop and Rock classics
  • Radio 2
  • Lampsi FM
  • POP FM
  • Nyhedsradioen 24-7
  • Radio City
  • The Voice Hiphop RnB 105,9
  • Radio City 107.0
  • Radio City 107.3
  • The Voice
  • Radio 1
  • The Voice (norge)
  • Mix Megapol
  • Vinyl 107
  • Kiss FM (romania)
  • Star FM

Print interests centre on Veronica.

Studies

There has been no major English-language study of SBS or Sloan.

For enfant terrible Roger Corman see his autobiography How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (New York: Doubleday 1990). Background about Ronald Lauder appears in biographies of his mother Estee, such as Lee Israel's Estee Lauder: Beyond the Magic (New York: Macmillan 1985). The dispute with Zeleny and the Czech government has been discussed in a range of law journal articles.

For KKR, the backer of Primedia, see Connie Bruck's The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham & the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders (New York: Penguin 1989) and Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco (New York: HarperBusiness 1991) by Bryan Burrough & John Helyar. The New Financial Capitalists: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the Creation of Corporate Value (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1998) by George Baker & George Smith is an authorised and laudatory study that might be read in conjunction with George Anders' Merchants of Debt: KKR and the Mortgaging of American Business (New York: Basic Books 1992).