Murdoch said to be among the big name parties courting TV Prima

The Czech Republic's second most watched television station, TV Prima, is up for sale. Reported to be among the interested buyers are international media heavyweights like the Australian-born billionaire Rupert Murdoch. A recent change in the Czech broadcasting law - and success in the TV ratings battle - has greatly boosted TV Prima's market value.

TV Prima director Martin Dvorak has long hinted that the commercial station was preparing to court some big-name strategic investors. It now appears to be prime time: on the strength of aggressive programming like the reality show "Vy Voleni", or The Chosen, TV Prima is gaining on its main rival in the ratings battle, the commercial station TV Nova, whose version of the Dutch hit "Big Brother" has proven a disappointment.

But more than programming, it is a recent change in the broadcasting law that makes Prima a hot commodity. By the year 2008, Czech public television's two stations (CT1 and CT2) will be obliged to drop virtually all advertising spots.

The vast majority of revenue from television advertising -- now valued at some 375 million dollars annually -- already goes to Nova and Prima, at roughly 55 percent and 23 percent, respectively. But with the Czech public broadcaster out of the picture, the commercial station's already healthy ad market share is guaranteed to grow.

Prima is looking for a global media investor not only so that the station may fund its development, but also to cut costs by gaining rights to a larger programming library. "Vy Voleni" and original programming aside, Prima's line-up has relied heavily on cheap straight-to-video American films and dated serials.

According to the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes, at least three major players have set their sights on Prima. The best known is Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation holdings include the Fox and Sky networks, and tabloid publications on both sides of the Atlantic. Germany's RTL Group, which operates over 30 television stations worldwide, has also made enquiries.

But according to the Czech daily, negotiations are furthest along with the Swedish broadcasting group MTG, a major operator in Scandinavia, Russia, the Baltics, and Hungary. TV Prima's Martin Dvorak would only say there is a "constant flow" of interested parties.