Whether and when KirchPayTV will announce its insolvency has been a source of intense debate all week, since sister company KirchMedia filed for protection from its creditors on Monday (April 8).
The company, which is the parent of the sickly Premiere World pay-TV operation, is trying to come up with a rescue plan and has been talking with bankers and investors all week. Industry sources had suggested that it would go to court to declare insolvency as early as Wednesday (Apr 10), but now insiders are saying that the company may hang on until next week. Nothing is ruled out, but it is unlikely to be this week, one source said.
The delay may also be explained by the renewed attempts of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to hatch a rescue deal and the redoubled efforts of those opposed to him.
If KirchPayTV goes into insolvency Murdoch may again find his ambitions thwarted in Germany. The insolvency of KirchMedia earlier this week appears to have opened the way for an all-German rescue cooked together by a consortium of publishers, banks and other interests. News Corp subsidiary BSkyB has a 22% stake in Premiere and has threatened to use a put option that would force Kirch to buy back the holding. Now it seems, News Corp may want to use the leverage it has as the operation's second largest shareholder.
But the picture is muddied by the role of the Hollywood studios. These are owed hundreds of millions of dollars for film rights and would benefit most by Premiere staying in business. But they are also said to be extremely wary of letting a rival studio-owning group extend its pay-TV empire into Germany and are negotiating directly with KirchPayTV's creditor banks.
Premiere, Germany's only pay-TV station, made a pre-tax loss close to Euros1bn last year and needs
several hundreds of millions of Euros,
to continue operating this year, according to newly installed chief executive Georg Kofler. In 2001 subscriber numbers grew by 100,000 to 2.4 million.
Banking sources quoted by Reuters put the likelihood of liquidation at 50:50.