German, French, Dutch units drive growth

Reflecting higher TV ad revenues in key German, French and Dutch markets and higher sales from production, European broadcasting giant RTL Group on Wednesday posted a major boost in net profit.

Overall revenue grew 3.4% to €2.75 billion ($3.98 billion), while net earnings soared 26.1% to $468.5 million. The positive results follow a slew of acquisitions and deals that have consolidated or expanded RTL’s operations across Europe and beyond, from the Netherlands to Croatia, Hungary, Russia and India.

The improvement in RTL’s bottom line was driven mainly by higher profits at its German, French and Dutch divisions.

Group saw 4.2% revenue growth at U.K.-based producer FremantleMedia, driven by higher revenue in North America and the first-time full consolidation of recent acquisitions Radical Media and Ludia.

FremantleMedia distribs “Merlin,” the hit German and Dutch daily soap “Good Times, Bad Times” and Australia’s “Neighbours,” as well as popular formats “Idols,” “The Price Is Right” and “Got Talent.”

RTL reported a mixed picture for Europe’s TV ad markets in the first half. In France, the Netherlands and Belgium, ad sales were up year-on-year. While the German market remained flat, leading channel RTL Television continued to up its market share over its main rival, ProSiebenSat.1, to a record 7.4%, thanks to hit shows including “House,” “CSI: Miami,” “Bones” and “Royal Pains.”

The markets in Southern and Eastern Europe reported lower ad revenue vs. a year earlier.

“We’ve taken important steps in recent months to strengthen our international portfolio,” said RTL topper Gerhard Zeiler. “The new joint venture in India is RTL Group’s first broadcasting venture into Asia.” We have acquired full control in both Hungary and Croatia, and will now proceed to build strong families of channels in these countries, too.

“After the strong growth seen in the Western European TV advertising markets in 2010, the first six months of this year show a mixed picture,” said Zeiler. “Maintaining the strong audience popularity of our channels and programs is essential to outperforming the competition in the advertising markets long-term.”He added that RTL’s improved results confirmed its overall strategy.

Despite the current insecurities of the global economy, Zeiler said he remained “cautiously optimistic for the full year.”

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