RTL posts losses of $2.18 bil

'Pop Idol,' 'Pop Stars' contributed to less red ink

COLOGNE — RTL Group, Europe’s largest commercial broadcaster, reported losses of $2.18 billion Monday, which it blamed on huge asset writedowns and the continuing advertising slump.

But things could have been a lot worse without its hit shows, including “Pop Idol” in the U.K. and France’s “Pop Stars.”

Adjusted earnings before interest, tax and amortization fell to $314 million from $483 million, while underlying revenues slipped 2.2%.

Television and radio were particularly hard hit last year as advertisers cut marketing in a weak economy, forcing RTL Group to issue four profit warnings in 2001.

Created in 2000 from the merger of the broadcasting arms of Bertelsmann, Belgium’s Audiofina and Britain’s Pearson, RTL said in September it was writing off $1.9 billion of goodwill to account for the slump in asset values. The group said Monday it was also writing off $248 million for its 17.2% share in Spain’s Antena 3.

In television, one of the worst performers was the U.K.’s Channel 5, which saw a 9% fall in revenues. Despite that, RTL made a firm commitment to the broadcaster, damping suggestions that RTL majority owner Bertelsmann would bid for one of Blighty’s two cash-strapped commercial channels, Granada and Carlton.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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