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Rick Holzman Upped To Animal Planet GM And EVP

By | Wednesday July 9, 2014 @ 11:50am PDT

Rick Holzman Upped To Animal Planet GM And EVPDiscovery Communications announced this morning Holzman will oversee strategy and all day-to-day operations for Animal Planet. Previously, Holzman served as EVP Programming and Scheduling for Animal Planet and Science Channel. He will continue to report to Marjorie Kaplan, Group President of TLC and Animal Planet.

From today’s announcement:

“Rick Holzman is one of the most brilliant minds in the media industry and a key driver of Animal Planet’s significant growth as an entertainment destination over the last several years,” said Kaplan. ”His leadership, knowledge and incredible passion for this brand make him the perfect General Manager for Animal Planet.”

Holzman has been with Animal Planet since November 2007, during which time he has been instrumental in the network’s rebrand and breakthrough growth, guiding Animal Planet’s programming by overseeing the network’s commissioning, acquisitions, co-productions and scheduling strategy. The best-performing series in network history – including RIVER MONSTERS, TREEHOUSE MASTERS, WHALE WARS, FINDING BIGFOOT and CALL OF THE WILDMAN – have all come to fruition during his strategic tenure, as did MONSTER WEEK, the week-long programming event that propelled Animal Planet to rank among the top-five, ad-supported cable networks.

Prior to joining Animal Planet, Holzman served as Vice President, Programming and Scheduling at Discovery Channel from 2004 to 2007. Under his guidance, the network launched a Tuesday-night slate of programming which included two of Discovery’s most popular franchises ever, DEADLIEST CATCH and DIRTY JOBS. He also commissioned the network’s first-ever game show, the Emmy®-winning CASH CAB, as well as the popular series, STUNT JUNKIES and

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Content Is King, But It Won’t Be For Long: Analyst

Content Is King, But It Won’t Be For Long: AnalystThis won’t go over well with the media moguls hobnobbing at the Allen & Co retreat in Sun Valley. But it’s the thesis behind the “neutral” rating that Barclays Capital’s Kannan Venkateshwar assigns to Big Media in his smart new 100-plus-page inaugural report on the industry. The major players – CBS, Discovery, Time Warner, Fox, Viacom, and Disney — make most of their profits from television. And although revenues in the field have grown over the last five years, “the source of this growth in most cases (with a few notable exceptions) has been through price inflation and an increase in the advertising inventory rather than a more sustainable growth in ratings,” he says. That spells trouble as Netflix, Amazon and others also produce content for the Web, and pay TV distributors including Comcast and DirecTV strike merger deals that make them stronger. They focus on shows and search engines — not networks and schedules. And as they forge stronger ties with subscribers, “traditional media companies get pushed further back into the value chain, further away from a direct relationship with the consumer.”
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Discovery Will Rebrand Fit & Health Channel As Discovery Life

Discovery Will Rebrand Fit & Health Channel As Discovery LifeCan Discovery Communications breathe some Life into Fit & Health? It’s going to try by converting the network into Discovery Life Channel on January 15. Its mission will be to “fuse the most successful current programming from Discovery Fit & Health’s library of healthy, medical and factual programming with new series that explore life’s unexpected challenges and the moments that really matter,” the company says. It will target women ages 25-54 and continue to run programs about mental health, women’s health, babies and pregnancy, fitness, and overall wellness.

The channel will remain under the purview of Henry Schleiff, who seems to have the longest title in media (it’s “Group President of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, American Heroes Channel, and Discovery Life Channel”). Jane Latman will remain General Manager, a position she took on in March. Read More »

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WGA East Charges Reality-TV Producers With Creating “Sweatshop” Conditions For A “Beleaguered And Exhausted Workforce” At NYC Hearing

WGA East Charges Reality-TV Producers With Creating “Sweatshop” Conditions For A “Beleaguered And Exhausted Workforce” At NYC HearingThey may not be under-age moppets toiling in Dickensian work-houses, but like Oliver Twist, writer-producers in New York City’s reality TV industry are saying, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Their collective voices were heard today during testimony before the New York City Council’s Civil Service & Labor Committee, which is investigating allegations of sweatshop conditions at the city’s reality TV production houses. Although invited, executives from those companies opted not to attend.

Image (3) WGAE_logo_20110616205123__140211174509-275x101__140403013618__140408175314.jpg for post 711549Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East, estimated that some 15,000 New Yorkers are currently working in nonfiction television. Approximately 2,200 are writers and producers who “often work 12, 14, 16 hours or more per day,” the WGA East said in The Real Reality: Working Conditions in the Nonfiction and Reality Television Industry in NYC. The a report, presented to the council, recommends codifying reality-TV production practices. “Eight-hour days are rare,” according to the report. The writers “often work weeks or even months without a day off. Five-day weeks are also rare. And 88% of producers and associate producers said they were ‘never’ paid overtime on their current jobs. When coupled with periods of unemployment between jobs, and no paid time off (vacation or sick leave) allowed while on a job, these exhausting work schedules lead to severe burn-out.”

“Today you will hear the tale of two television industries,” Peterson told the committee. “Most of our members work in the part of the industry that provides good benefits, good pay, good middle-class careers. Today you are investigating the other part of the industry – nonfiction or ‘reality’ TV – which is almost entirely nonunion. People in that part of the industry work brutally long hours without overtime pay, without health or pension benefits, without paid time off, without the basic protections they deserve.”

TLCThe guild has been organizing reality show writers and producers in New York for the last five years. So far, it’s only signed contracts with three of the more than 20 companies there that each employ more than 50 writer-producers. It’s been trying to get a contract with ITV Studios, producers of A&E’s The First 48 and TLC’s Four Weddings, for the past four years.

So-called “wage theft” – the non-payment of overtime through the misclassification of employees as freelancers – dominated much of the testimony. Sarah Leberstein, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project, said that this widespread practice “illegally depresses labor costs and cheats workers out of the wages they’ve earned.” City Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who chaired the hearing, noted the city and state are “losing tax revenue” as a consequence of the practice.

Reality TV shows are currently not eligible to receive New York film tax subsidies, although Peterson said that industry executives are currently lobbying to be included in those tax breaks. Miller, a former union president, said he would strongly oppose extending those subsidies to reality TV unless the industry stops mistreating workers. “I find it appalling,” he said, “that the executives of these industries have not shown up to justify their positions nor to justify their asking for millions of dollars of subsidies in taxpayer dollars so they can continue to make a lot of money and exploit workers.”

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Hub Future Murky Amid Founding CEO Exit

By | Tuesday June 17, 2014 @ 8:21pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Hub Future Murky Amid Founding CEO ExitAlmost a week after Hub Network president and CEO Margaret Loesch announced that she will be stepping down at the end of the year, speculation about the future of the upstart kids cable channel — a co-venture between Discovery Communications and toy maker Hasbro  — is growing. At the time of Loesch’s announcement, I was hearing the name of Discovery veteran Tom Cosgrove — CEO of another Discovery co-venture channel, 3D Television Network — as a potential replacement. Cosgrove continues to be rumored for the job. Complicating a potential hire is the fact that 3D is a three-way venture of Discovery, Sony and Imax, but I hear Discovery has been exploring becoming a majority or sole owner of the fledgeling 3D TV channel. There is talk that Hub might be put under the purview of Henry Schleiff, group president of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, American Heroes Channel (formerly Military Channel) and Discovery Fit & Health. He only recently added Fit & Health to his portfolio, so oversight of Hub would further expand his turf, with Cosgrove possibly reporting to him. Read More »

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HUB President & CEO Margaret Loesch To Exit

By | Thursday June 12, 2014 @ 6:41am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

loesch1EXCLUSIVE: Hub Network president and CEO Margaret Loesch will be stepping down at the end of the year. The veteran executive oversaw the 2010 launch of the kids cable network, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and toymaker Hasbro, and has run it ever since. Loesch’s departure raises further questions about the future of the upstart kids cable network, which has been plagued by rumors  that it may be shutting down. Hub, which replaced Discovery Kids, is not commenting on its plans for the future, though I’m hearing the name of a Discovery veteran — Tom Cosgrove, CEO of another Discovery co-venture channel, 3D Television Network — as a potential replacement. Hub_Network_LogoThere is talk that Hub, which reaches nearly 73 million U.S. homes, may be re-branded, with its headquarters, currently based in Burbank, potentially moving to Discovery’s home base in Silver Spring, MD.

“After five years at the Hub Network as its founding President & CEO, I am announcing that I will be leaving at the end of the year when my contract expires,” Loesch said in a statement to Deadline. “I am very proud of the work we have done and the accomplishments we have achieved at the Hub. The network is now in excellent financial shape, its ratings are up year-to-year, our programming has won more than 30 awards, including 12 Daytime Emmys, and the Hub Network has become a TV home for quality programming that kids and their families come together to enjoy. I will be working closely with our parent companies, Discovery and Hasbro, to assist in the leadership transition. I want to thank both companies for the opportunity they extended me and thank my wonderful team at the Hub. I have loved my job and am proud of the achievements we’ve made. While my career has spanned over four decades, I look forward to evaluating future opportunities and writing the next chapter.”

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Discovery’s David Zaslav Feted At Mirror Awards Presentation

By | Wednesday June 4, 2014 @ 1:22pm PDT

david zaslavOprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, Ron Howard, Fox’s Chase Carey, and AMC Networks’ Josh Sapan were among the moguls who paid tribute to Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav today in a video as Syracuse University presented him with its Fred Dressler Leadership Award. “This is a guy who’s not afraid to fail — and when he does, as he did with Planet Green, he moves on,” former Viacom chief Tom Freston said in presenting the award. “I don’t think there’s anyone in the business who’s having Mirror Awards 2014 logoa better time than he is.” The university gave the honor as part of its annual Mirror Award luncheon to recognize some of the year’s best journalism about the media. Re/code‘s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg received the I-3 award for impact, innovation and influence. Read More »

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Discovery And Liberty Global Agree To $930M Deal For All3Media

Advanced wokingsThe price, at £550M is less than All3Media‘s majority shareholder Permira originally wanted. But the deal puts the UK production company in the hands of two formidable global TV providers who have created a joint venture for the purchase and vowed to let All3Media remain a stand-alone entity. Discovery and Liberty Global “come with a long-term view of the importance of building a leading global content company and appreciate All3Media’s distinctive philosophy of creative freedom and diversity,” says All3Media Chairman Steve Morrison. The partnership will help his company “to expand further through multiple avenues of growth around the world, including in the U.S. market, which has been a driver for our business for the past several years.” 

Related: Discovery CEO Says He’s Looking At Global Deals But Doesn’t Need To Buy

It’s the latest addition to a new breed of company that some refer to as “mega indies.” This also is a big step for Discovery and Liberty’s international expansion — endorsed by John Malone, who controls nearly 28% of the votes at Liberty Global and 29% at Discovery. Liberty bought Virgin Media in 2013 and earlier this year agreed to pay $9.4B in cash and stock for Dutch cable operator Ziggo. In January, Discovery fast-tracked its acquisition of a controlling stake in Pan-European platform Eurosport, and last year bought the SBS Nordic operations of Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1. The move also lays to rest long percolating rumors that FremantleMedia was poised to acquire All3Media.

Here’s today’s release: Read More »

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Discovery CEO Says He’s Looking At Global Deals But Doesn’t Need To Buy

DavidZaslavDavid Zaslav didn’t want to directly address reports that he’s considering a run at UK independent TV production power All3Media and weighed a bid for the country’s Channel 5, which Viacom just agreed to buy. But in an earnings call with analysts this morning the Discovery CEO left the door open for a deal, and protected his negotiating leverage by saying that he could easily walk away. “We look at everything but only want to buy assets that will help us strategically,” he says. “We’re in the 4th inning in terms of our growth strategy internationally.” While he says that Discovery can grow organically and doesn’t “need to buy anything,” it also wants to be “opportunistic.”

Related: Discovery Misses Q1 Earnings Estimates

OWN_logo-2__130529151034-200x109__130919234649__140109185239Execs were a little defensive after Discovery reported slightly disappointing results for Q1, which led the stock to open -3%. The company volunteered that Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network has grown so much over the last year that it was able to pay back $16M vs last year when Discovery had to funnel $14M to the channel. And while Discovery Channel was “hit hard by the Olympics,” Zaslav says, its ratings “did rally and we’re up 12% in prime [time] in April.” Read More »

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Discovery Misses Q1 Earnings Estimates As Rising Costs Offset Revenue Gains

By | Tuesday May 6, 2014 @ 4:14am PDT

PrintThe company’s earnings reports are becoming complicated as Discovery folds in overseas properties including SBS Nordic. Still, investors who measure the results vs. expectations may be disappointed this morning. Discovery reported Q1 net income of $230M, just a hair lower than $231M in the period last year, on revenues of $1.41B, +22%. Discovery 1Analysts expected $1.43B from the top line. Earnings at 66 cents a share missed the consensus forecast for 71 cents. At the U.S. Networks cash flow increased 2% to $383M on revenues of $708M, +3%. Ad sales increased 5%, roughly in line with expectations, but distribution revenue at $319M, +4%, may raise questions among those who expected better. Discovery says that operating expenses rose 5% “due to increased marketing costs” in a quarter when it rebranded the Military Channel, now called the American Heroes Channel. Numbers at the International Networks business will catch people’s eyes with cash flow +18% to $221M on revenues of $671M, +51%. Much of that reflects the addition of SBS Nordic. Ad sales increased 108% to $316M, but if you factor out the acquisition they were up 23% in local currency terms. Distribution revenues, reported +23% to $338M, would come in at a more modest +10% without SBS Nordic. Discovery predicts that its full-year revenues could go as high as $6.625B, with net income possibly hitting $1.3B.

Related: Discovery CEO Says He’s Looking At Global Deals But Doesn’t Need To Buy

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Discovery & BSkyB Poised To Acquire UK’s Channel 5: Report

channel5Back in February, word began to spread that longtime frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch were eyeing a joint acquisition of the UK’s Channel 5. Malone-backed Discovery Communications and BSkyB, majority owned by Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, have now reportedly gone ahead and sewn up a deal. Broadcast reported that Discovery and BskyB are nearing an announcement they have acquired the broadcaster in a deal valued at £350M, which would give the former a 70% stake and the latter 30%. But media entrepreneur Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell, owner of Channel 5, has said it received several bids and was still evaluating them, according to Bloomberg. The free-to-air broadcaster was thought to be seeking a buyer with about £700M to spend, but many were skeptical it would fetch such a price; Desmond paid about £103.5M for it in 2010. Other companies that have been said to have shown interest include Viacom, Turner Broadcasting, BT, NBCUniversal and Saban Capital.

Channel 5 is notably the home of Big Brother, although its contract for the show expires in 2015. The net also airs U.S. dramas like Under The Dome, CSI and Person Of Interest; weekly average ratings hover around 4%. Read More »

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Discovery Communications Ups Rita Mullin To GM Science Channel

By | Monday April 14, 2014 @ 3:27pm PDT

An 18-year Discovery veteran, Rita Mullinmullin2 is moving up from her role as EVP Programming and Development at OWN to General Manager of Science Channel. The announcement was made today by Eileen O’Neill, Group President, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Velocity, to whom Mullin will report. Science_LogoHer new position is effective June 2. “I am excited to call myself the newest member of the Science Channel team,” Mullin said. “I want to ignite people’s passions with the stories we have to share. Science is now. We want to capitalize on people’s curiosity for the unknown with thought-provoking programming, bold talent and out-of-this-world entertainment.” Read More »

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MIPTV: Discovery Invests In DogTV Network For Stay-At-Home Canines

By | Tuesday April 8, 2014 @ 4:54am PDT

dogtvDiscovery Communications is going to the dogs, via DogTV that is. The company has made an investment in 2-year-old channel bills itself as the first television network created just for canines. The companies also  have formed a strategic partnership to help accelerate DogTV’s growth and allow for collaboration with Animal Planet. DogTV is a 24-hour network that effectively helps babysit stay-at-home pooches with programming specifically designed for their eyes and ears. Content is split into three categories — relaxation, stimulation and exposure — to help mip tv logo 2provide balance for their daily routines. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, program director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University, is DogTV’s chief scientist. Prior to the channel’s launch in 2012, he performed a study monitoring dogs’ behavior in their own homes, which captured viewing time and preferences, leading to the development of DogTV’s programming. Additional pet experts include Victoria Stilwell, of Animal Planet’s It’s Me Or The Dog, and veterinarian Dr Marty Becker, who frequently appears on Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show.

Related: Super Bowl Blowout Sends Record 13.5 Million To ‘Puppy Bowl X’

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Discovery Upfront Presentation Returns Spotlight To Non-Fiction

PrintThis was a subtle contrast to last year when the company also highlighted scripted fare and trotted out a parade of celebrities including Mariel Hemingway, Morgan Freeman, William Hurt, LaToya Jackson, and NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon. Filmmaker Ron Howard was perhaps the biggest new name showing up this year: He told Discovery advertisers that New Form — the online content production venture he and Brian Grazer are launching with the Winter TCA Tour Discoverypay TV company — expects to “generate great scripted programming for today’s digital viewers.” They’re already weighing “several series” as they delve into “shortform content and all its possibilities.” Howard also intends to encourage other creative types to “bring their talent to New Form.” Oprah Winfrey returned, of course, to promote OWN. With its recent ratings success, “no one is happier than we are right now about what is happening to OWN.” She says the network is heading toward its “next evolution” with its first original scripted movie with Toni Braxton playing legendary studio singer Darlene Love, the focus of the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. She also brought out Tyler Perry for a second year; he talked up his soap opera The Haves And The Have Nots

Related: Discovery Channel Unveils New Slate

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Discovery Teams With Ron Howard And Brian Grazer To Create Digital Studio

brian-grazer-ron-howardApollo 13 meets Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? Hard to say yet what might come from the venture, called New Form, that unites the Hollywood creative team — plus lawyer Craig Jacobson, TV exec Ed Wilson, agent Jim Wiatt, film exec Michael Rosenberg and CAA — with pay TV’s leading producer of non-fiction programming. There’s no word on terms of the arrangements, including how much cash is behind New Form. Kathleen Grace will be chief creative officer of the LA-based operation. Her mission, the companies say, is to develop “high-quality, scripted and unscripted programming for today’s digital viewers” — and to create alliances with “key distribution partners and brands.” Digital productions typically have low budgets, and generate low revenues on the Internet, but the ones from New Form have a “possibility of expanded distribution across Discovery and partner platforms globally.” The announcement comes ahead of Discovery’s upfront presentation today in NYC, where Ron Howard will appear to introduce the digital JV. “By investing with Discovery, New Form is poised to re-imagine storytelling and reach new audiences online and beyond,” he says.

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Discovery CEO David Zaslav Made $33.3M In 2013, -33.2%

By | Friday March 28, 2014 @ 2:28pm PDT

It’s not a slap on his performance — far from it in a year when Discovery shares appreciated 38%. DavidZaslavBut this year David Zaslav’s package didn’t include stock awards that accounted for $25.3M of his compensation in 2012. The 2013 tally includes $3M salary, $22.5M in option awards, $5.8M in non-equity incentives, and $2M in other compensation. That last category includes a $1.5M contribution to his retirement account, $165,018 for personal use of the company jet, $49,411 for travel that’s taxed as a commuting expense but that “we consider business travel” — plus a $20,793 tax gross-up for his commuting travel. There’s also a $16,800 car allowance, $9,975 for home office expenses, and $171,562 for personal security services which include a car and security-trained driver. Zaslav’s $33.3M total is 5.2 times the median for the four next highest paid execs. Corporate governance watchdogs say that a CEO’s pay is out of whack when it’s more than 3 times the median for his or her closest colleagues. Still, the latest figure is far better than 2012 when Zaslav’s pay was 13.4 times the median for others in the C-suite. In January the board extended Zaslav’s contract through 2019 to “recognize his outstanding business success in extraordinary expansion in audiences, reach, and breadth that our company has experienced during [his] tenure.” Shareholders will have an opportunity to register their opinions about the compensation packages in an advisory vote at Discovery’s annual meeting, to be … Read More »

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Discovery Sued For Cameraman’s Death In Reality Show Chopper Crash

By | Thursday March 27, 2014 @ 8:10pm PDT

DJP LEGAL BADGEDiscovery Communications is facing yet another wrongful death and negligence lawsuit over the fatal helicopter crash on February 10, 2013, during filming of a reality show. Donald Rydstrom, the father of a cameraman killed along with two others while filming a military-themed Discovery Channel show, today filed a complaint in LA Superior Court (read it here) against its parent company seeking “general damages in a sum in excess of the jurisdictional limits Discovery-Communications__121214124042-200x98__130830021611of this Court, which will be stated according to proof.” Darren Rydstrom, cast member Michael Donatelli, and pilot David Gibbs died just after 3:30 AM on that February day last year when the helicopter they were in crashed in an open field at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in Acton, CA. The senior Rydstrom is claiming loss of love, companionship and support as well as “other benefits and assistance of Descendent” and more.

Related: Discovery Reality Show Chopper Crash Due To ‘Cost Cutting Measures”, Says New Lawsuit

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Discovery Founder John Hendricks Will Retire In May

By | Thursday March 20, 2014 @ 2:34pm PDT

This is a milestone for the company, and the cable industry. John Hendricks is one of the business’ most influential programming pioneers, and possibly the most authentic and humble media mogul I ever met.John Hendricks He will retire both as chairman of the Discovery board and from the board itself after the annual meeting May 16. “Few words can appropriately convey what kind of person John is, or what he has meant to this company and the cable television industry overall,” CEO David Zaslav says. discovery“He is a true visionary, a man of enormous integrity and one of the world’s great entrepreneurs.” A native of West Virginia but raised in Alabama, Hendricks founded Discovery in 1985 — inspired by his interest in documentaries, and a desire to create a company in the young but promising cable industry. It was a novel, and risky, venture but succeeded with timely support from CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, banker Herb Allen, and cable exec John Malone. Hendricks ran the non-fiction cable channel and company as CEO until 2004.  In the 1990s, a time when cable consisted of analog signals, he was one of the first to promote niche-oriented digital networks. In 2002, he made Discovery HD Theater the first 24/7 HD channel on basic cable. In a letter to the board today he says that he plans to “spend the next few years traveling the planet and discovering the questions and mysteries that intrigue us all.” He also will focus on a new enterprise: Curiosity Project, which will sponsor Curiosity Retreats and the online Curiosity Club. The goal is “to nurture our natural human curiosity in a very substantial way. I am committed to building a lifelong learning academy operating within the private sector that offers deep dives into our curious questions about science, technology, civilization, and the human spirit.”

Here’s the complete farewell letter: Read More »

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Discovery To Supply Content For, Consult On New Chinese Pay Channel Qiu Suo

By | Thursday March 20, 2014 @ 2:59am PDT

Discovery-Communications__121214124042-200x98In a deal that gives it further access to the Chinese market, Discovery Communications has partnered with China’s Wasu Digital TV Media Group to supply content for new local pay-TV channel Qiu Suo. The subscription channel launched earlier this week and offers factual and lifestyle entertainment programming from outlets including Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet. qui suo Wasu is owned by State-run outfits Hangzhou Culture, Radio and Television Group and the Zhejiang Radio and Television Group. It has China’s largest digital content library and about 20M subscribers. Discovery, some of whose programming was already available in China via other providers, will act as a channel and content consultant for Qiu nSuo. Arjan Hoekstra, president and managing director of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, said, “The new channel will introduce millions of Chinese viewers to some of Discovery’s best content and, building on the success of our existing business in China, paves the way for the next phase of growth for Discovery in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.” Discovery has been on a big international push of late. In January, it fast-tracked its acquisition of a controlling stake in pan-European platform Eurosport, and last year bought the SBS Nordic operations of Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1. It’s also understood to be considering a bid for the UK’s Channel 5.

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