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Endemol suitors seek to lure Big Brother creator

De Mol, said he isn't in direct negotiations with Endemol and he's not close to a deal. Endemol has a market value of about € 1.6 billion ($2 billion). „I've been asked by several parties to join talks,” De Mol said in an interview in Hilversum, the Netherlands. „I would say they are very preliminary.” Telefonica SA, Spain's biggest phone company, owns 75% of Endemol and plans to sell its holding in the Dutch company. The other 25% is listed on the Amsterdam stock exchange. Madrid-based Telefonica is reversing an expansion into media, more than five years after buying Endemol for about € 5 billion in shares in 2000. Endemol's other shows include „Fear Factor.” Endemol's international distribution network could be of strategic interest to De Mol's new company Talpa Media, which is trying to export new ideas for television shows, he said. Talpa Media may consider a partnership with Endemol instead of a purchase, he added. „I'm quite relaxed in all this,” he said about the talks on Endemol. De Mol started his own TV-station Talpa TV last August in the Netherlands and plans to start a second one „within a year,” he said. Viewing rates have so far fallen short of expectations.
In the first half, Talpa drew 6.4% of viewers between the ages of 20 and 49 during its broadcast hours of 6 p.m. to midnight, according to Dutch TV rating service Stichting KijkOnderzoek. The station was aiming for 10% within a year. Talpa pits itself against channels owned by the Dutch public broadcaster; RTL Group, Europe's No. 1 broadcaster; and SBS Broadcasting, the region's second-biggest TV-company. They compete for an advertising and sponsorship market worth more than € 850 million a year, according to Spot, a Dutch TV advertising industry group. De Mol said the company's revenues would come from both commercials and the sale of ideas for TV-shows to other stations. Gooische Vrouwen, a show about Dutch women similar to „Desperate Housewives,” has been sold to TV-stations in Belgium and France. „Formats will be a very important source of income,” said De Mol. He hopes to emulate Big Brother's worldwide success with „The Golden Cage,” a reality show about 10 people imprisoned in a 2 million-euro villa. Big Brother has in its seventh series in the UK in 2006. Endemol, the Dutch-based television production company behind the hit Big Brother TV show, has parted company with its chief executive Joaquim Agut. Although the firm said in a statement that Agut had resigned for personal reasons, the news has renewed takeover speculation surrounding the group. Reports have suggested in recent weeks that Endemol's parent firm, Spain's Telefonica, wants to sell the business. A group of investment banks are said to be interested in buying Endemol. Telefonica floated a 22.3% stake in Endemol on the Dutch stock market last November, leaving it with 75% ownership. Resignation 'expected' Endemol said earlier in July, that it would seek to replace Agut without delay. Analyst Oskar Tijs said: "We have always expected Agut would resign if and when Telefonica gives up control over Endemol." Telefonica gave Agut, a Spaniard, the top job at Endemol two and a half years ago. "The supervisory board and management board regret Agut's decision, but respect it and thank him for his valuable contribution and achievements," said Endemol. The company has sold its Big Brother concept to 37 countries around the world. (Bloomberg, BBC News)