ProSieben Gets European Licenses to Sony’s EverQuest II, DC Universe

ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG (PSM) will publish eight games from Sony Online Entertainment in Europe exclusively, including “Star Wars: Clone Adventures” and “DC Universe Online,” as the broadcaster expands online offerings.

The agreement with the Sony Corp. (6758) division also includes online multiplayer worlds “EverQuest II,” “Free Realms” and “Pox Nora,” Unterfoehring, Germany-based ProSieben said in a statement today.

“The cooperation agreement with Sony Online Entertainment brings us a big step closer to our goal of becoming one of the top three publishers in Europe,” said Christian Wegner, head of media and diversification at ProSieben.

As part of its strategy to become less reliant on advertising revenue from free television, Germany’s biggest broadcaster last year bought Munich-based free online games publisher burda:ic with about 7 million players and took a majority stake in browsergames.de, which has 1.8 million visitors a month.

ProSieben’s games, online video and other digital ventures had 243 million euros ($311 million) in revenue in the first nine months of last year. In October, the broadcaster said it sees additional revenue potential for those businesses of more than 250 million euros by 2015.

Sales Beat Target

Sales from the company’s digital and ventures business exceeded a goal of growing 20 percent in 2011, Wegner said at a press conference in Munich today.

ProSieben shares were up 2.2 percent to 14.83 euros at 1:39 a.m. in Frankfurt, valuing the company at 3.2 billion euros. Its shares lost 38 percent of their value last year.

“We didn’t feel we had the right reach in Europe,” said Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley at the Munich meeting. “Our goal is to become the leading free to play publisher in the world and with the help of ProSieben, we feel Europe is covered now.”

The companies will share revenue and risk under the terms of the multiyear agreement, executives said today.

In December, ProSieben struck deals to distribute Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS) games such as “Battlefield Heroes,” “FIFA Superstars” and “Need for Speed World.” Other games available on the broadcaster’s games platforms include Bigpoint GmbH’s “Farmerama” and Marvel Entertainment’s “Superhero Squad Online.”

Free Games

All the games are free and the companies make money when players decide to spend anything from 10 cents to 30 euros for items such as weapons or virtual money that may make the player more competitive, Achim Kaspers, a ProSieben games manager said today.

Arnd Benninghoff, the chairman of the digital unit’s board, said less than 10 percent of players spend money within the games and that the average a paying player spends per month varies between 15 euros and 50 euros. He said the online gaming market in Europe is expected to grow 17 percent each year to $5 billion in 2015.

Some of the games licensed by ProSieben were previously subscription-based and Smedley said that when games such as “DC Universe” and “EverQuest” became free-to-play, registrations multiplied.

“A big part of the future is free-to-play,” Smedley said. “We’ve determined that it is in our best interest to convert our entire business to free-to-play. That is where we are seeing an astoundingly high number of gamers coming to the market.”

With more than 200 million registered players each, Hamburg-based Bigpoint and Karlsruhe, Germany-based Gameforge AG, are among Europe’s largest online games publishers. Travian Games GmbH in Munich has in excess of 120 million registered players, according to its Website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ragnhild Kjetland in Frankfurt at rkjetland@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

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