M6, Antena 3 TV weathering financial storm

MADRID  — Diversification and digital terrestrial television are proving results savers at French broadcaster M6 and Spanish network Antena 3 TV.

Both nets, along with France’s TF1 and Spain’s Telecinco, announced half-year financials over the last week.

All four have been whammied by recession but M6 and Antena 3 are weathering the storm better.

At M6, owned by European TV giant RTL, consolidated revenues dropped just 4.3% to E678 million ($966 million), while operating profit edged down only 1% to $153 million. Advertising revenues at core channel M6 fell 14.1%.

Despite the recession, revenues at M6’s stable of DTT channels and cable/satellite channels — led by music service W9, upscale Paris Premiere and femme-skewing Teva — grew 12% to  $100.5 million. The channels collectively turned an operating profit of $17.2 million in the first six months of the year.

It was a similar story at Antena 3, controlled by Spanish-Italian media group DeAPlaneta.

Facing a far more savage advertising downturn in Spain than France, revenues dropped 26.6% to $271.5 million, while operating profit plummeted 73.9% year-on-year to $33 million.

But the slight drop in audience share at Antena 3’s core analogue channel was more than made up by a 1.2% percentage point gain at Antena 3’s two DTT feeds, general entertainment channel Antena.Neox and lifestyle service Antena.Nova.

Bundling ad sales across all three channels, Antena 3’s second quarter advertising revenues dropped 28.5% to $224 million, less than Spain’s 34% fall for total TV advertising.

“TV ad bundling across Antena 3’s three channels has meant $28.5 million in additional revenue, which is significant for Antena 3,” said one analyst.

At TF1, there was no improvement in the main channel’s ad revenue, down 23% on 2008 to $978 million for Jan.-June. Prospects for the year remain poor, though analysts found comfort in TF1’s $84 million savings made to the cost of programming.

TF1 has already strengthened its DTT base, raising its stake in most-watched Gallic DTT channel TMC.

Second-quarter advertising at Telecinco dropped 48% year-on-year to $224.5 million.

At a conference call Thursday, Telecinco management announced it would begin to invest seriously in DTT content, and bundle TV ad sells across its core and DTT channels.

“M6 and Antena 3 have invested earlier and more thoroughly in a multi-channel strategy, which TF1 and Telecinco neglected,” said Daniel Knapp at media analysis company Screen Digest. The channels with least diversification have lost out most, Knapp added.

DTT, once a bane of French and Spanish broadcasters, slashing their market shares, may now prove their salvation.

(Emiliano de Pablos in Madrid contributed to this report.)

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