Disney Gets Green Light to Acquire German Network Das Vierte

5:07 AM PST 11/16/2012 by Scott Roxborough

The deal gives Disney a free-TV channel, previously owned by NBCUniversal, in one of Europe's biggest TV markets.

COLOGNE, Germany - Germany's media watchdogs have approved a deal allowing the Walt Disney Company to take full control of German free-TV broadcaster Das Vierte.

Under the agreement, first announced in September, Disney will acquire Das Vierte from Russian media executive Dmitry Lesnevsky for an undisclosed sum. The free-TV channel,  formerly owned by  NBCUniversal, is a minnow on the German scene, with a mere 0.2 percent share of the German audience.

Disney already has a strong presence in the German TV market, with a 50 percent stake in leading kids channel Super RTL (Bertelsmann's RTL Group holds the remaining 50 percent) and, together with Herbert Kloiber's Tele-Munchen Group, a 31.5 percent stake in free-to-air channel RTL II. Disney also operates its pay TV channels the Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and Disney Cinemagic in Germany and holds an indirect stake in Germany's A+E Networks channel.

Das Vierte, however, will be the first free-TV broadcaster in Germany that Disney owns outright.

The Hollywood conglomerate has been keeping mum about its plans for the channel. There has been media speculation that Disney will use Das Vierte to launch a German version of its sports network ESPN or that it will sell its stake in Super RTL and relaunch Das Vierte as a family entertainment network.

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