Italy’s Mediaset Expands, Moves Base to Amsterdam

Mediaset, the Milan-based broadcaster founded by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is expanding its scope by moving its base to Amsterdam and setting up a pan-European media company, MediaForEurope, that will operate in Italy, Spain and Germany.

MediaForEurope will merge Mediaset Italy and Mediaset Spain, and include the company’s recently acquired 9.6% stake in Germany’s ProSiebenSat1. The newly consolidated company will be floated on the stock markets in Italy and Spain.

The move will give the new entity “scale to compete” with “big global players” thanks to “an integrated and diversified approach,” the company said in a statement, adding that its combined penetration will be more than 100 million TV homes. It described the move as an important step “towards the development of a fully integrated media company that can become a market leader” in both the linear and non-linear entertainment markets.

“In a world of global competition, creating a group with adequate size that can speak to a European audience becomes a crucial factor for the future,” Mediaset Managing Director Pier Silvio Berlusconi said.

The pan-European company will be headquartered in the Netherlands for “regulatory” reasons but will be fiscally based in Italy. Being headquartered in Amsterdam will shield MediaForEurope from risks tied to the volatility of Italy’s economy.

Mediaset Italy and Mediaset Spain, in which Mediaset owns a controlling 52% stake, are being folded into MediaForEurope. Mediaset is the private free-TV market leader in those two countries.

But Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 is not being merged with the Mediaset operations. Mediaset became the second-largest shareholder of ProSiebenSat.1 last week when it bought a 9.6% stake for a reported €330 million ($368 million). The synergies and setup between Mediaset and ProSiebenSat.1 remain to be seen.

The move comes amid a wave of consolidation in Europe’s television market as traditional networks struggle with declining advertising and younger viewers gravitate towards Netflix and other streamers.

Mediaset previously failed in an attempt to create a pan-European giant by joining forces with France’s Vivendi. The alliance went sour, which prompted an unsuccessful hostile takeover attempt by Vivendi, which now owns a 28.8% stake in Mediaset. The Berlusconi family, through its holding company Fininvest, has a 44% stake in the company.

“For Fininvest, this is a day to remember,” Fininvest President Marina Berlusconi said in a statement. She called MediaForEurope “the first step towards the birth of a pan-European broadcaster,” adding that Mediaset “knows how to react as a protagonist to the transformations of an increasingly global and competitive market.”

It remains to be seen whether MediaForEurope can become a cross-border operation in terms of content creation, like Netflix, Amazon and other platforms, which it says it is gearing up to compete against.

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