Dutch giant won’t exit TV

AMSTERDAM — Giant Dutch publisher VNU says it will not follow through with threats made last year to sell its TV interests in Holland and Belgium, despite losses of more than 1 million guilders ($525,000) in its broadcasting and entertainment division in 1996.

Net profits from VNU ordinary operations rose 16% in 1996 to $166 million, from $144 million in 1995. Operating income in its television and production division, however, dived from $18 million in 1995 to a loss of $525,000 a year later, blamed on tough competition on the Dutch and Belgian broadcast landscape.

VNU, one of the earliest investors in commercial TV in the Benelux, has a 25% share in Holland Media Group (HMG), a three-channel network consisting of Dutch market leader RTL 4, RTL 5 News & Information and Veronica. It also has a 44% stake in Belgian Flemish market leader VTM.

The company late last year warned it was “very disappointed” with the earnings of the HMG and VTM channels, and was considering selling its shares, especially in VTM, which went into the red for the first time in 1996 since it launched about eight years ago.

A spokesman for VNU admitted to Daily Variety, “The TV results are not good but we’re not ready to give up yet. We expect some improvement in the television market, and when it happens, our stations are the strongest and will profit the most.” The spokesman said the group planned to level off its broadcast investments “in favor of content supply.”

The publisher in a joint venture with Chrysalis last fall took over Holland’s second-biggest production company IDtv and formed a new holding company CVI to act as an umbrella for IDtv and future production companies yet to be launched in other territories.

VNU owns Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter, as well as a raft of publishing and business information data services.

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