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Football World Cup rights move to Switzerland

Kirch's Premiere World broadcasting a football match on April 6, 2002 just before the company's collapse was announced

(Keystone Archive)

The ailing German media group, Kirch, has transferred its television rights to the 2002 and 2006 football World Cup to its Swiss subsidiary.

The decision to move the television rights to Kirch Sport in Zug came just before the core unit of the group, KirchMedia, filed for insolvency on Monday.

World football's governing body, FIFA, said the move was important to ensure that broadcasting of this year's event in South Korea and Japan would not be affected by Kirch's financial crisis.

Swiss-based Kirch Sport originally carried out sales to broadcasters worldwide on behalf of KirchMedia, which controls the group's huge film library, sports rights and four television stations.

FIFA said in a statement that the subsidiary would now become the parent company of the entities that distribute the rights worldwide.

"The companies are all financially sound and legally independent and will be in a position to fulfil all their obligations towards the broadcaster," said the statement.

Kirch's downfall

Munich-based Kirch accumulated debts of an estimated €6.5 billion ($5.7 billion), which was mainly due to a disastrous push into pay-per-view television and the slump in advertising.

With his pay-TV service, Premiere, the company founder, 75-year-old Leo Kirch, failed to meet subscriber targets and lost €898 million last year.

Banks are expected to discuss with potential investors a plan to restructure KirchMedia by providing more funds, discharging some of its debt and re-launch it as a new company.

The collapse of KirchMedia is the third major insolvency in Germany in just over three weeks, following construction company Philipp Holzmann and aircraft maker Fairchild Dornier.

swissinfo with agencies

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