Springer joins digital parade

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COLOGNE, Germany -- After failing to acquire control of German commercial broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1, publishing giant Axel Springer is changing its TV strategy in Germany.

The group announced Wednesday that it has set up a new digital TV division to produce and market content for the Internet and other digital distribution platforms.

Klaus Ebert, former head of RTL's digital broadcast operations in Hamburg, has been appointed to head up the venture, called Axel Springer Digital TV.

Springer is also moving more aggressively into the regional German TV market, bidding for a 27.4% stake in TV Berlin, an urban network that broadcasts to Germany's capital. Springer already has a 24.7% stake in regional channel Hamburg 1.

Springer is Germany's largest newspaper group, with titles including tabloid Das Bild and broadsheet Die Welt. For years, Springer has been trying to expand its presence in the television sphere. The Berlin-based publisher made a bid to take over leading German commercial broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 from Haim Saban but the deal fell through.

Andreas Wiele, co-head of electronic media at Springer, said Wednesday that the company now plans to "expand aggressively" into Germany's growing digital TV market.

Springer is hoping television will provide more energetic growth than its core print business. The group released its third-quarter figures on Wednesday, and while net profits jumped 11% to €173 million ($221 million) in the first nine months of this year, revenue slipped to €1.74 billion ($2.2 billion) from €1.77 billion over the same period in 2005.
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