Calling itself the "most profitable broadcaster in Europe" for a third

consecutive year, Spain's free-to-air private network Telecinco posted net

profits for 2001 of Euros112m. But the total was a 28% decline compared with the previous year's Euros155m.

The company attributed the slide to the advertising recession. But Spain's commercial channels also faced stiff competition last year from top-rated reality programme Operacion Triunfo, which aired on public broadcaster Television Espanola. Telecinco is fighting back with next week's April 4 launch of the third edition of previously top-rated reality show Big Brother (Gran Hermano).

The network's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was Euros193m, 24% down on the previous year. Competitor Antena 3, majority owned by Telefonica, reported a positive EBITDA of Euros112m for 2001, down 43%.

Telecinco is owned by Mediaset (40%), Kirch Gruppe (25%), Grupo Correo (25%) and Ice Finance BV (10%), although Kirch is looking to sell off its shares.