November 15, 2017 / 12:23 PM / a year ago

ProSieben CEO apologises for calling viewers obese and poor

FRANKFURT, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The chief executive of German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 apologised on Wednesday for calling his core audience “obese” and “slightly poor”.

Thomas Ebeling had been explaining to financial analysts on a conference call last week why he was not more worried about the threat from Netflix, whose content he described as often art house-like and unappealing to ProSieben’s viewers.

“They are human beings who are slightly obese, slightly poor, who still like to sit on the couch and lean back and really like to get entertained. This is a key audience which is not changing,” Ebeling said.

“Don’t mix up us with American markets where people have to pay for crappy content. We give good content for free.”

On Wednesday, Ebeling said in a statement: “My comment was obviously a pointed exaggeration to illustrate different means of enjoying media. I in no way meant to insult our viewers. The comment was taken out of context and was unfortunately wrongly understood, which I very much regret.”

His remarks had caused a storm on Twitter.

“How out of touch can one be? You don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” tweeted Web developer Ortwin Pinke.

“Has ProSieben chief Ebeling ever taken a look at himself? I will block this anti-social channel right away!” tweeted Martin from Cologne.

ProSieben’s slogan is “We love to entertain you.” Its popular shows include “Germany’s Next Top Model” and American series such as crime drama “Gotham”.

The broadcast group cut its German TV ad outlook for the fourth time in a year last week, sending its shares to the lowest in 4-1/2 years, as its ratings fell and it wrote off 170 million euros ($201 million) in U.S. programming.

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung later reported ProSieben had begun looking for a successor to Ebeling to turn the broadcaster around. The company said it would start looking for a successor “in a timely manner”.

On Wednesday at 1157 GMT, ProSieben shares were 0.3 percent higher and one of only two gainers in the DAX index.

$1 = 0.8449 euros Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Mark Potter

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