Published: 08.04 Europe/London, April 18, 2011

Finnish publisher Sanoma is the highest bidder for the Dutch and Belgian SBS channels, according to local reports. A total of around €1 billion is involved. The bids were due in on Friday, April 15.

The publisher is keen to expand its multimedia business into the televsion arena. In Finland, Sanoma is already active in broadcasting, but in Belgium and The Netherlands the company’s activities are so far limited to print and online. By acquiring the SBS assets from the German ProSiebenSat.1 Group, the publisher will become one of the multimedia giants in the Benelux.

Sanoma is working together with a number of partners. In The Netherlands, the publisher has joined forces with John de Mol’s Talpa, in its bid to acquire the three Dutch channels from the group, SBS6, Net 5 and Veronica. The Dutch assets also include Veronica magazine, the country’s biggest selling TV guide.

In Belgium, the race is on for the two SBS Belgium channels, VT4 and VijfTV. Here, Sanoma is co-operating with the media holding De Vijver from Wouter Vandenhaute and publisher of daily newspapers Corelio.

In The Netherlands, there was also interest from De Persgroep, the Belgian based publisher, who owns the VMMa channels (VTM, Kanaaltwee, JimTV) in Flanders together with the Roularta group. The Telegraaf newspaper (TMG) also expressed interest, but deemed the asking price too high. TMG is one of the original investors in the Dutch SBS channels and as a result still owns 6% of ProSiebenSat.1.

In Belgium, the Luxembourg based RTL group was also interested. RTL owns the main private channels in the French-speaking part of the country, but so far has no interests in Dutch speaking part. In Holland, the RTL group owns the best performing private broadcaster RTL Nederland with four TV channels, RTL4, RTL5, RTL7 and RTL8 as well as a few radio stations including Radio 538 and Radio 10 Gold.

Interestingly, John de Mol at the moment owns 25% of RTL Nederland and is one of its main programming partners with its Talpa company.

For Sanoma, the possible acquisition of the Dutch and Flemish SBS channels would mark a return to the TV business. In Belgium, the publisher, when it was still known as VNU, was one of the original founders of the first private broadcaster in Flanders, VTM. In Holland, VNU was at one time a 35% share holder in the Holland Media Group, who at the time owned RTL4, RTL5 and Veronica, together with RTL and Veronica Holding.