By Jörn Poltz
MUNICH (Reuters) - ProSiebenSat.1 Media will launch its new streaming venture in June as the German broadcaster seeks to expand the digital side of its business to compensate for a decline in TV advertising.
The initial version of 'Joyn' - a mashup of the words 'joy' and 'join' - will be ad-funded, with subscription options expected in late autumn or early winter, CEO Max Conze said.
Conze, who has spent two million euros of his own cash in the last six months buying ProSieben shares, wants to build a digital media and e-commerce powerhouse.
He made some headway in the first quarter, with revenues rising by 4 percent, buoyed by Prosieben's production and e-commerce divisions, even as core profits declined on the back of weak advertising and rising investments in TV.
ProSieben had guided for a decline in earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), and its reported 5 percent drop just beat expectations in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Analysts at Liberium raised their investment rating on ProSieben to 'hold' from 'sell', with the share price now in line with their 14 euro target price. The shares gained 3.6 percent by 1203 GMT to 14.74 euros.
Joyn will offer a slate of 50 channels live - including partner Discovery Inc's Eurosport - as well as video on demand, responding to the challenge of streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Within two years, Conze hopes to attract 10 million users.
The Joyn package will include channels from Germany's public broadcasters - and Conze said he hoped to gain access to more live channels run by ARD.
The video libraries of ARD and sister broadcaster ZDF will, however, not be available. The development of smartphone and tablet versions of the streaming app is continuing, Conze said.
Local rivals have, meanwhile, stolen a march on ProSieben, with RTL Group ramping up its TV Now streaming service in Germany, and Freenet adding subscribers at waipu.tv, which offers a similar bundle of live channels.
Conze, the former CEO of UK appliance maker Dyson, is focussing on 'smart reach' to help advertisers - including firms in ProSieben's own e-commerce portfolio - to attract the attention of viewers.
Revenue at its NuCom division, which spans home improvement, dating and price comparison sites, grew by 14 percent after adjustment for portfolio and currency effects. The Red Arrow Studios production arm was ahead by 31 percent thanks to hit shows "The Weekly", "Vienna Blood" and "Bosch".
That offset a 4 percent slide in advertising revenues that hit ProSieben's Entertainment division, which still accounted for nearly two thirds of revenues in the latest quarter.
ProSieben reiterated its forecast that earnings would decline in the second and third quarters but stood by its EBITDA margin goal of 22-25 percent for 2019 as a whole, and for a mid-single-digit percentage revenue increase.
(Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Michelle Martin and Elaine Hardcastle)