Borders will fall for Euro TV titan

ProSieben, SBS in $4.4 bil deal; new giant looks eastward

Europe greeted a new broadcasting giant last week as Germany's ProSiebenSat.1 acquired SBS Broadcasting Group in a deal valued at €3.3 billion ($4.4 billion) (HR 6/28).

The new, expanded ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG will have a footprint that covers 13 countries and counts 24 free TV, 24 pay TV and 22 radio networks among its main assets.

With combined annual revenue of about €3.1 billion ($4.2 billion) and EBITDA profits of €691 million ($928 million), ProSieben/SBS will be Europe's second-largest television conglomerate, trailing only Bertelsmann's RTL Group.

For the studios and other international companies, the agreement marks the emergence of a player capable of making pan-European rights deals. ProSieben, already a major buyer of such U.S. movies and TV series as "Grey's Anatomy," "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives," could now step up with deals covering half of Europe.

For Pro-SiebenSat.1's owners, private equity groups Permira and KKR, it marks a further triumph in their blitzkrieg of the European media landscape. In less than three years, Permira and KKR have gone from behind-the-scenes players to dominate European TV.

From 2005, when they acquired SBS, to December, when they paid Haim Saban's consortium about $4 billion for a controlling stake in ProSiebenSat.1, KKR and Permira have become European TV's new 800-pound gorilla.

It is unlikely to stop there. ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Guillaume de Posch, speaking during a conference call, said the bulked-up company will look to expand first in Eastern Europe.