Premiere paints happy picture for stockholders

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MUNICH -- The future looks brighter, German pay TV operator Premiere told shareholders Friday at their annual meeting in Munich.

The company's income has stabilized after a precipitous drop since losing the pay TV rights to Bundesliga soccer action in late 2005, and talks with German cartel regulators about a deal to bring back the Bundesliga via satellite are going well, Premiere's top officers said.

The first quarter of 2007 saw an 18% year-to-year drop in revenue, according to CFO Michael Boernicke, from €273 million ($364 million) in the first three months of 2006 -- directly after the loss of the Bundesliga rights -- to €224 ($298.7 million) in the same period this year. But second-quarter figures are expected to be at or about the same level as in 2006.

And talks with media watchdogs in Berlin "are making good progress," CEO Georg Kofler said. And if the satellite deal with Bundesliga rights-owner Arena goes through, Premiere should see "a significant increase in revenues during the second half of the year," Boernicke added.

Arena was unable to fully capitalize on its exclusive right to show Bundesliga matches live because it did not acquire the expected subscriber base. It struck a deal with Premiere in February that would give it a percentage of the older pay TV company's income derived from broadcasting the Bundesliga via satellite as well as a 17% stake in Premiere.

The cartel authority formally objected to the deal in April and Premiere and Arena suspended the arrangement. Since then, the companies have been in talks to get the go-ahead on the venture, presenting a new version of the plan at the beginning of this month.

The deadline for a decision has been repeatedly pushed back by the government watchdogs. The current date is June 23.
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