German newspaper speculation that the supply of Hollywood feature films to the free-TV channels of ProSiebenSAT.1 could become a victim of the KirchGroup crisis, has been refuted by ProSiebenSAT.1's board chairman.

Ahead of planned talks on debt-for-equity deals between Hollywood studios and the beleaguered KirchGroup on Monday April 29, Welt am Sonntag observed that the bulk of the payments for film rights to the US majors was the responsibility of the KirchGroup's deficit-laden pay TV platform Premiere.

However, were Premiere was to part company with the KirchGroup, the studios would probably move to renegotiate higher prices for film rights from the KirchMedia free-TV stations ProSieben, Kabel 1, and SAT.1. The paper argued that the US majors regarded themselves as having a strong negotiating position since ProSieben and Kabel 1 were particularly reliant on feature films to fill their schedules.

Welt am Sonntag quoted an industry insider as saying that "either the channels pay more or they will be bled white", but ProSiebenSAT.1 Media's board chairman Urs Rohner countered at the presentation of the group's first quarter results on April 29 that "the programme provision for our channels is secure for the next few years irrespective of the insolvency of KirchMedia".

Rohner explained that "our need for feature films and series is completely covered for 2002 and already at 86% up to 2003". The family of channels can cover around 57% of licensed programming requirements through to and including 2004 with the rights they have already acquired. "No other private television company in Germany owns such a large, attractive programme assets reaching so far into future as the ProSiebenSat.1 group", Rohner noted.

Meanwhile, newspaper reports on Monday revealed that John Malone's Liberty Media and the British investment fund Hicks Muse Tate & Furst had joined the growing list of potential suitors expressing interest in acquiring various parts of Leo Kirch's media empire.