The UK's Carlton Communications may seek to develop corporate links with continental Europe's top broadcasters, having this week enlarged its Internet deal with TF1 to include the Epsilon trio of companies.
Often criticised for not having an active European strategy, Carlton this week hinted that it sees Germany's Kirch, Italy's Mediaset and Spain's Telecinco as attractive partners at other levels. "They are the leading free broadcasters in their own countries. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship," said Carlton communications chief David Cameron.
According to Carlton, each of the five companies will contribute Euros50m to an investment pool that will be drawn on to fund Internet and interactive television acquisitions.
Carlton said that the fund will be used to buy into European Internet start-ups, established US Internet businesses, Internet broadcast rights - notably sports rights - or technology solutions. The acquired businesses will be expected to drive and build traffic for the partners' existing on-line operations and will be able to harness the huge marketing power of the companies' broadcast operations. "A typical example would be AskJeeves.com, a successful US business which we bought and have now turned into one of the top ten UK sites," said Cameron. "It is clear that broadcasters in Europe have a common interest."
Carlton moved to scotch rumours that it had announced the deal prematurely. "TF1 made an announcement a couple of weeks ago. We are following up with this. The deal will be finalised in the next few weeks," said Cameron.
Kirch, Mediaset and Telecinco last year established an informal alliance, Eureka, since renamed Epsilon, that will invest in studio-level US movies in return for European TV rights.