ProSieben holds line on asset sales, U.S. programming

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European broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 said Wednesday that it will not sell off assets or cut its acquisitions budget for U.S. programming despite sour 2008 figures, which showed a net loss of €129 million ($162 million) and a 5.7% decline in consolidated revenue to $3.8 billion.

"Our programming budget for U.S. acquisitions last year was in line with 2007, and we expect it to remain stable for 2009," Andreas Bartl, head of ProSieben's main over-the-air German TV division, said during a conference call.

Bartl added that ProSieben will focus on its existing volume deals with U.S. studio partners Sony, Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney and MGM.

So far, ProSieben has been true to its word, paying top dollar for movies like "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and new series like "The Mentalist" and re-upping such established shows as "NCIS," "Cold Case," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives."

But with $4.2 billion in debt and its stock price near an all-time low, the TV giant said it will chop $125 million from its budget this year. New CEO Thomas Ebeling said he expects the bulk of savings to come from already-implemented measures, including the move of German network Sat.1 from Berlin to corporate headquarters near Munich and a new technical setup designed to improve efficiency.

While reducing debt load remains a key priority, Ebeling said ProSieben has no plans to sell off assets, again denying rumors that the group is looking to drop its struggling call-in channel 9Live. (partialdiff)
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