German network dumps MSNBC for Deutsche Telekom

Germany's second-largest TV network will not renew its news-content deal with MSNBC Interactive News, signing instead a new arrangement with T-Online International AG, the Internet subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG (DT). Starting in August, ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) will join T-Online in offering a news and information portal, http://www.heute.t-online.de/, based on ZDF's successful "Heute" (Today) news programming brand.

The two German companies announced the deal at DT's annual press conference in advance of the CeBIT IT trade show here Tuesday.

ZDF's current portal, http://www.zdf.msnbc.de, a cooperation with Microsoft and National Broadcasting Co.'s joint venture MSNBC, will be phased out after the current contract ends in August, said Dieter Stolte, ZDF director. He cited new regulations prohibiting ZDF, a public institution funded by TV license fees, from including advertising or sponsoring on its Web sites.

For the same reason, the new portal will be free of advertising, said Stolte.

"We expect it to build a new brand, that will draw more attention to offerings beyond heute.t-online.de," he said, citing the network's desire to attract a younger audience.

The network's broadcasts will direct viewers to the Web site for more information on topics covered on air.

Ron Sommer, DT's board chairman, said the ZDF deal is a key part of T-Online's new content-focused strategy. "It is the first, really big strategic content partnership -- others will follow," he said.

The executives declined to offer details on the financing of the deal, but Stolte called it a licensing contract which is "cost-neutral" for ZDF.

T-Online, in Weiterstadt, Germany, can be reached at +49-6151-680-0 or http://www.t-online.de/. ZDF, in Mainz, can be reached at +49-6131-70-1, or online at http://www.zdf.de.

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