Arena approaches millionth customer


COLOGNE, Germany -- German pay TV group Arena is closing in on its goal of signing up one million customers in its first year of operation.

Parm Sandhu, CEO of Arena parent Unity Media, said Thursday that, as of Sept. 30, Arena had 942,000 subscribers paying around $19 a month to receive the company's service.

Those new customers helped Unity grow third quarter revenue, which climbed to €148 million ($192 million) against €137 million in Q3 2005.

But the company is still a long way from turning a profit. Unity booked an operating (EBITDA) loss of €45 million ($58 million) in the third quarter and Sandhu still refuses to say when the company will hit break even.

One of the problems for Arena is that around half of its subscribers receive the company's pay TV service via Arena's main competitor Premiere, with Premiere taking a cut of the monthly fee.

Sandhu said closer cooperation with Premiere was possible but denied rumors that Arena was interested in acquiring its pay TV competitor.

"We are not going to buy Premiere shares," he insisted.

Premiere stock took a nose dive late last year after Arena signed a deal taking exclusive pay TV rights to Germany's first and second division soccer leagues. Premiere has cut costs and returned to profit in the third quarter of this year, but the company's future remains uncertain.

Premiere remains Germany's largest pay TV player, with 3.4 million subscribers.