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"We are now catapulting our television business into a new dimension, enabling the new group to develop new content and genres for combined television and Internet operations."
—Kaiser Thomas Middelhoff, Bertelsmann AG
BERTELSMANN BACKS EURO BROADCAST UNION
TV/Radio Giant CLT-UFA,
U.K. Multimedia Biggie Pearson
To Wed, Speak Convergent Dialect
Bertelsmann AG and holding company Audiofina, co-owners of European broadcasting behemoth CLT-UFA, have agreed to merge the entity with UK-based media group Pearson plc. The resulting corporation will be one badass media mother—er, pan-European integrated broadcast and content company.

Pearson’s holdings include independent broadcast giant Pearson Television (PTV), which has 160 programs in production in 35 countries, as well as the Financial Times newspaper, The Economist magazine and an interest in online entertainment destination Uproar.com.

CLT-UFA has a stake in 22 television channels and 18 radio stations across Europe, the conglom also runs a sports rights business, vending broadcast rights of soccer clubs and other athletic teams throughout the continent. In addition, CLT-UFA operates over 70 branded Net sites.

A date for the merger has yet to be determined.

It’s not hard to see the momentum that could be achieved by the marriage. But the tremendous broadcast possibilities (now’s your cue to say the word "synergy" in an array of silly European accents) are just part of the equation. The emphasis in the companies’ press spin on "content" indicates numerous enticing possibilities for using Net and terrestrial media ventures to massively inflate the merged company’s bottom line.

For Bertelsmann, it’s a nice dessert after media arm BMG’s feeding frenzy of online alliances in preparation for the vending of digital downloads via e-tailers planned for this summer (see story, 4/7a). Obviously, the effort to vend that "content" can be abetted in myriad ways by the expanded broadcast and Net reach of the merger.

Audiofina, which is traded on the Luxembourg stock exchange and is currently majority-owned by Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL), will be renamed and cede 37% ownership to Berteslmann and German publisher WAZ as a result of the deal. GBL will maintain 30% of the company.

The new group expects annual revenues in the neighborhood of 4 billion euros. As far as we know, a euro is currently valued somewhere between a baguette and a cornish pasty.

Pronounced Bertelsmann ruler Thomas Middlehoff, "We are now catapulting our television business into a new dimension, enabling the new group to develop new content and genres for combined television and Internet operations."

Added the media mogul, "It is good to control Europe once again. The English rolled over much more easily this time."

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