Greece Raises $275M in Controversial TV License Auction, Vice Partner Antenna Among Winners

Greece - H 2015
AP Images

Greece - H 2015

Bidders were locked in at the Greek press ministry for more than three days.

Greece, which has caused much debate and outrage with its plan to establish a state-owned agency to sell TV advertising electronically, said Friday it has raised about $275 million (€246 million) in a controversial  three-day-long auction of TV broadcast licenses.

The left-wing government of prime minister Alexis Tsipras had offered four licenses, meaning the number of privately run TV networks would be reduced from seven currently.

Two existing TV channels, Skai TV and ANT1 TV, operated by Vice Media's Southern Europe partner Antenna Group, secured licenses. The other operators must stop broadcasting within three months, according to the government.

Antenna paid $84.8 million (75.9 million euros) for its license, Skai $48.7 million (43.6 million euros), shipping magnate Vangelis Marinakis $82.6 million (73.9 million euros) and businessman Yiannis Kalogritsas $58.8 million (52.6 million euros).

So far, Greece has provided licenses for free. Under its bailout agreement with international creditors, the country promised to auction off TV licenses.

Critics in the Greek media industry and among opposition parties have called the reduction in the number of channels a politically motivated attack on free speech. The government has said it wants to fight business oligarchs and their media power. It has also argued that the Greek media market is too small and weak to sustain this many networks.

The overall Greek ad market is estimated to be worth $625 million annually, with TV accounting for $220 million of that.

According to local reports on the license auction, bidders were on lockdown at the Greek press ministry for more than three days, with cell phones banned to avoid news leaks.