Premiere to take Sky brand

By Julian Clover

German pay-TV platform Premiere could be heading for a summer rebrand as Sky Deutschland.

The News Corp-owned operation would adopt the brand used by sister companies in the UK and Italy. Traders on the Frankfurt market have even gone so far to suggest that a full-blown merger between Premiere and BSkyB may be in the offing. Rumours of a tie-up pushed up the share price of both Premiere and its UK counterpart in late Thursday trading.

The Premiere brand goes back almost 20 years, launched in 1991 by KirchGroup, UFA and Canal+, before merging with Kirch’s DF1 in 1997. Bankruptcy of KirchGroup followed, before Premiere went public in March 2005. News Corp acquired its holding in January 2008, building it from the 14.58% purchased from Unity Media, to over 30% today.

Already former Sky Italia CFO Mark Williams has put the News Corp stamp on the company, bringing the Premiere Star mini-pay package back into the fold, set-top technology has been shifted towards NDS, and additional HD capacity from satellite operator SES secured.

On the downside Premiere recorded its largest ever loss of €114.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, and reappraised its subscriber numbers in October 2008, taking almost 1 million subscribers from its 2.4 million installed base.