European broadcasting giant RTL Group has reaffirmed its belief that the merger of its French subsidiary M6 with local rival TF1 must go ahead to keep competing with the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon.
The merger is under threat after France’s competition authority raised concerns about the deal, which would unite Bouygues-owned TF1 and RTL’s M6, both leading commercial broadcasters in the country. A plan to merge RTL Nederland with Dutch broadcaster Talpa Network is also being looked into by local competition watchdogs.
In RTL Group’s half-year financial results revealed this morning, CEO Thomas Rabe addressed the situation as the company posted H1 revenue of €3.28BN ($3.35BN). “We expect the competition authorities in France and the Netherlands to decide on the proposed combinations of both Groupe TF1 and Groupe M6, and Talpa Network and RTL Nederland in autumn,” he said. “We remain convinced that market consolidation is necessary to compete with the global tech platforms.”
RTL and Bouygues plan to address the French competition authority midway through this month, with hearings scheduled for September 5 and 6. A final decision on the merger is expected to follow in October.
Late last month, TF1 CEO Giles Pelisson raised alarm bells when he said: “The dream we shared is not necessarily shared by the competition authority. On that basis, before the dream becomes a nightmare, there also needs to be a reality check, around the fact this dream may not happen.”
A decision on the Talpa deal is expected this fall.
RTL & Fremantle post growth
Rabe’s comments come as RTL posted H1 revenue of up 8.7% on the same period last year. This was put down to strong performance from RTL Nederland, growing streaming revenue (up 21.5% to €130M), “scope effects” at RTL Deutschland (from the acquisitions of publishing firm Gruner + Jahr and kids channel Super RTL) and Fremantle, and positive foreign exchange rate effects.
However, revenue in the second quarter was organically down 4.1% to €1.7BN due to “slowing TV advertising markets, in particular in Germany.”
RTL’s adjusted H1 EBITA was up 3.7% to €501M but its group profit of €304M was well down on last year’s €929M, when the company benefited from gains from several disposals.
Global content producer Fremantle posted revenue up 8.1% to €983M and RTL expects it to achieve full-year revenue of €3BN by 2025. The support this plan, RTL will “invest significantly,” both organically and through acquisitions “in all territories across drama and film, entertainment and factual shows and documentaries.”
Fremantle has struck several deals already this year, including the acquisition of Normal People producer Element Pictures and Medici creator Lux Vide, an agreement to take majority control of The Salisbury Poisonings firm Dancing Ledge Productions and buying the remaining shares in US/Australian formats producer Eureka.
RTL expects Fremantle to achieve full-year revenue of €3BN by 2025 and “invest significantly” both organically and through acquisitions “in all territories across drama and film, entertainment and factual shows and documentaries.”
RTL Group has already sold RTL Belgium to Belgian media companies DPG Media and Groupe Rossel for €154M net and RTL Croatia to Central European Media Enterprises (CME) for €40M — sales it claims are in line with a group strategy “to drive consolidation in the European TV industry, and to build national cross-media champions.” US-based data company VideoAmp has also been sold for $104M.