Tough times during RTL, Sat.1 milestones

Both networks mark 25th anniversaries this year

COLOGNE, Germany -- RTL and Sat.1, Germany's two largest commercial networks, both turn 25 this year, a milestone in the history of European television.

But while champagne corks are popping at RTL's headquarters in Cologne, Sat.1's staff is preparing for a pink slip party, with hundreds of jobs expected to go in cost-cutting measures.

RTL is pulling out all the stops for its big bash. The channel's stars, such as Dieter Bohlen, Germany's answer to Simon Cowell, hoist birthday cakes on posters and billboards across the country. Teasers and promos for new shows bear a "RTL 25 Years" logo and a primetime show is planned with highlights from a quarter century of commercial TV.

Sat.1's celebrations, meanwhile, are limited to a few clips and "best-of" photos on the channel's Web site.

Sat.1 can hardly afford a blowout party. Parent company ProSiebenSat.1 is weighed down with more than $5 billion in debt and shares are down nearly 90% compared with last year. To cut costs, Sat.1 is closing its Berlin headquarters -- a prestigious building in one of the city's priciest neighborhoods -- to move to ProSieben's offices in a sleepy suburb outside Munich.

But even without a party, Sat.1 does have something to smile about. The channel had an overall market share of 10.4% last year, up nearly 1% and the biggest jump of any of the major German broadcasters.

Ratings at RTL dropped half a percent to 11.8%.