NBCU Global Networks selling Das Vierte

Sale in line with focus on pay TV outlets

LONDON -- NBC Universal Global Networks signed a deal to sell its German free-TV channel Das Vierte to Mini Movie International Channel, the short-film specialty network run by Dmitri Lesnevski, founder of Russian independent broadcaster Ren TV.

NBC Uni launched Das Vierte in Germany in 2005 as an all-drama channel, a counterprogramming move in an era dominated by reality shows. But while Das Vierte quickly hit its first-year target of 1% audience share, it struggled to expand further. The Munich-based channel was put on the block late last year.

NBC Univeral Global Networks in London said the sale is in line with its international strategy of focusing on its branded pay TV outlets. Even without Das Vierte, NBC Uni expects the international side of its business to more than double in the next 2-3 years.

Lesnevski said he planned to keep Das Vierte as a general entertainment channel but that Mini Movie would supplement its schedule of licensed movies and sitcoms with in-house production.

Both sides expect the deal to quickly pass regulatory muster and to close by the end of June.