Pan-Euro conglom buoyed by German TV operations, FremantleMedia biz
BERLINPan-European broadcasting giant RTL Group, a major buyer of U.S. content, made a record €6 billion ($7.96 billion) in revenue last year, despite an increasingly tough economic environment. The group attributed the 4% increase to its TV operations in Germany and booming business at its London-based production and distribution subsidiary FremantleMedia, whose hit series include “Got Talent,” “Idols,” “The X Factor” and “Merlin.” The company saw net profit drop 14.2% to $792 million, due mainly to a $95.5 million impairment loss on RTL’s stake in Spanish broadcaster Antena 3 Group. The significantly higher profit from its German division was offset by lower results from operations facing more challenging market conditions in other countries, plus higher investment in programming and portfolio effects, such as the sale of its Dutch radio stations. Throughout 2012, European TV ad markets reflected local economic developments, the company said. While the German TV ad market was slightly up, the French, Dutch and Belgian markets were down year-on-year, with a significant slowdown over the second half of the year; markets in Spain, Hungary and Croatia continued to suffer more pronounced declines. RTL Germany achieved a record result, increasing earnings (before interest, tax and amortization) by 9.8% to $771 million — the best ever full-year operating profit for RTL’s largest profit center. RTL Germany also managed a combined audience share of 33.7% among the key 14-49 demo, remaining the clear market leader 5.9 percentage points ahead of its main commercial rival, ProSiebenSat.1. FremantleMedia continued to produce primetime shows for broadcasters in almost every major TV market in the world; the company’s revenue grew by 19.7%, driven by growth in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Asia-Pacific. In addition, RTL generated 44% of its revenue from non-advertising activities, such as content production, rights trading, teleshopping, e-commerce and merchandising. The group has stepped up investment in broadcasting, content and digital initiatives and launched five new channels last year. It’s also building a strong and rapidly growing presence in non-linear TV and exploring online video networks, with its first YouTube channels produced by FremantleMedia. In a joint statement, RTL co-CEOs Anke Schaeferkordt and Guillaume de Posch said the group’s success was based on its “unique set-up: we are the only pan-European free-TV group with a worldwide content production powerhouse. “Our expertise in content and creativity has already proven to be a competitive advantage for the non-linear TV world as audiences are attracted by hit formats and established brands across all screens and devices. This is why RTL Group is well positioned to develop a leading position in high-growth markets such as online video advertising.” Looking forward, the co-toppers said economic conditions remained challenging and visibility limited. Bertelsmann, which controls 92.3% of RTL, has said it’s considering a possible minority sale while retaining 75% of the company, although no final decision has yet been made.