Saturday, March 31, 2007

John de Mol playing chess

While the newspaper and book publisher PCM is looking for a new strategy, John de Mol’s television station TIEN (ten; formerly Talpa) is in trouble. De Mol is now playing chess on more than one board.

John de Mol is in principle a format creator and producer. So when he started the broadcast station TIEN more than a year ago, everyone was looking with anticipation. It was not the first time that he started a commercial television station. In the nineties he had started SEVEN, but this became a disaster due to broadcast politics in The Netherlands. This time the forecasts were better. He hired a star-studded stable of presenters, bought the soccer rights to the premier league, laid on some new formats for entertainment and news, formulated a new policy for commercials and started. The public broadcast companies rethought their radio and television policies and the commercial broadcast companies like RTL and SBS anticipated with new programs.

But the game is over for the broadcast station TIEN. At least that is the way it looks. For weeks already rumours are flying around that John de Mol is talking to RTL and SBS. The talks have been confirmed, but no comments have been made about the direction of the talks. Key in the talks will be the soccer rights. John de Mol bought them and paid a lot of money for it. If the station TIEN stops, the rights go back to the soccer association and principally would come up for auction. But as the soccer season has not ended yet, the soccer association will most likely co-operate with a transfer to another station. Most likely John de Mol will be able to decide which ones as that company will have to buy the rights for the remaining part of the contract. And the station that gets the rights can be assured of high viewing figures on the Sunday night.

In the meantime the troubles of TIEN have not stopped John de Mol of playing on another chess board: Endemol. This entertainment company, for 75 percent part of Telefonica, is up for sale and by the beginning of April a decision will be taken by Telefonica’s board about the offers. John de Mol is one of the parties involved. His investment company is forming a consortium with the Italian Mediaset of former Prime Minister Berlusconi to buy Endemol. The consortium is not the only one making an offer. The former owner of the French division of Endemol is making an offer; a private equity consortium is putting down a bid. And in the last days the Italian media company De Agostini has shown interest. If John de Mol wins the bid, he will be back in his former company, which includes his name.

And if these two major actions are not nerve wrecking enough, John de Mol is buying shares in de Telegraaf Media Group (TMG), not to produce a newspaper, but to influence SBS, in which TMG has shares. He also is investing in smaller companies, oriented towards internet such as Bright, an internet site and magazine and in an internet advertising company Spotzer Media.

Oh well: you win some, you loose some. The John de Mol story continues

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