Dutch aud battle on news front

AMSTERDAM — News is becoming the latest weapon in the fiercely competitive battle for market share in Holland.

The Holland Media Group, which houses Dutch commercial market leader RTL 4, sister channel RTL 5 and Veronica, plans to increase its news coverage by 25% this year across the board.

Holland Media already has one channel, RTL 5, devoted mainly to news and information. It now plans to spruce up what advertisers have called the “stodgy image” of market leader RTL 4 with a flashy new news program “RTL Aktueel.”

That program is skedded at the same time (10:30 p.m.) and is admittedly gunning for the younger auds of SBS6’s “Heart of Holland,” which draws in up to 900,000 viewers nightly. At the same time, SBS6 has launched its own frontal assault on RTL 4 News, the Dutch market leader’s showpiece 7:30 p.m. news slot by skedding a fast-paced American-style news show in the same timeslot called — what else? — Action News.

The raison d’etre of “RTL Aktueel” is to hit a younger news crowd with a one-hour blitz, starting at 10:30, of crime, showbiz, world and sports news — a lineup that has striking similarities to “Heart of Holland,” said Dorien Sterrenburg, marketing and research manager for the Dutch branch of international media research group Carat.

RTL 4 continues to draw the highest audience share of all channels in Holland but is losing its advertisers because its auds are mainly over 50, hence the pressure to put on a youthful front.

But the direct attack on SBS6’s youth auds through “Heart of Holland” could backfire.

“While they’re busy trying to take our audiences in ‘Heart of Holland,’ we’ll be attacking the youngest part of their RTL 4 News audiences,” Bart Soepnel, program director for SBS6, said. “And we think we can take them. We’ve got ‘Gold Coast’ on right before ‘Action News,’ ” Soepnel added. “Gold Coast,” Holland’s first Dutch-originated soap, continually draws high ratings among the country’s 15- to 25-year-old youth auds.

Oddly enough, according to Carat, RTL 5, which was forced in January to become a news and information station by European Union anti-competition authorities, has been one of the most successful channels in drawing the youth ticket.

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