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Liberty Group acquires Filmmuzeum channel in Hungary

2007-09-30

Hungary’s Filmmúzeum, a television channel that showcases mainly old classic films, has been sold to leading content-provider Chellomedia CEE Holdco B.V. following a go-ahead by Hungarian competition authorities

Chellomedia is the European-based content division of Liberty Group (www.lgi.com), which is present in 19 countries. Launched in November 2000, Filmmúzeum has become known for its retro-appeal.

The sale, announced Sept. 22, follows a decision by the National Radio and Television Commission or ORTT (www.ortt.hu), Hungary’s media regulatory body, which in April 2007 changed Filmmúzeum’s ranking from a local channel into a national one. The owners of Filmmúzeum protested, claiming the decision would mean it would be more expensive to acquire programs and that it would turn the broadcaster into a money-losing operation.

Through its Hungarian cable-provider, UPC Magyarorszag Kft. (www.upc.hu) and the UPC Direct banner, Liberty has already gained a considerable market share in Hungary’s cable and internet businesses. In its package UPC sells several Liberty-owned channels as well, such as Minimax, Romantica, Europe and Reality. Liberty’s further corporate assets in Hungary include telecom company Monor Telefon, thematic channel Paprika (www.tvpaprika.hu) and the popular Sport 1 channel (www.sport1tv.hu).

Even though their accumulated share in the annual advertising revenue of Hungary’s television sector is below 10%, market consolidation issues were a factor in the transaction.

The antitrust commission GVH (www.gvh.hu), concerned that UPC may gain unfair advantage by making Filmmúzeum available exclusively in its own package of channels, gave conditional approval to the sale Sept. 19 as long as the new owner makes Filmmúzeum available for third parties (e.g. cable companies) with a “nondiscriminative price” until August 2011. The goal is to ensure fair competition in the content market.

At a press conference, Laszlo Szucs, CEO of UPC Hungary, assured Filmmúzeum’s viewers that the change in ownership will not result in any alteration of the channel’s programming policy

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