Mediaset is Italy’s top commercial free-to-air broadcaster. Its purchase of a stake in ProSiebenSat.1, for a reported $368 million, comes amid a wave of consolidation in Europe’s television market as traditional networks struggle with declining advertising as younger viewers gravitate towards Netflix and other streamers.
Mediaset is run by chief executive Pier Silvio Berlusconi, son of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the broadcaster’s founder. The company previously failed to create a pan-European giant by joining forces with France’s Vivendi in an alliance that went sour, which prompted an unsuccessful hostile takeover attempt by Vivendi. Mediaset operates in Italy and in Spain via Mediaset Espana, and is the private free-TV market leader in both countries.
“European media companies like us need to join forces if we are to continue to compete [with], or even just resist, in terms of our European cultural identity, possible attacks by the global giants,” Pier Silvio Berlusconi said in a statement.
“It is in this spirit of collaboration and shared vision that Mediaset, the leader in Italy and Spain, has decided to invest in ProSiebenSat.1 – an investment that, we are sure, will create tangible value for both groups,” he added, underlining that the stake purchase, which makes Mediaset the second shareholder in ProSiebenSat.1, was “friendly.”
ProSiebenSat.1 operates free-to-air and pay-TV channels in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and controls production group Red Arrow Studios. It has been struggling financially due to increased competition from streamers. The company’s 2018 year-end figures, released in March, showed a drop in earnings and revenue, with net income down 2% from 2017 to $612 million. Restructuring is underway.
ProSieben CEO Max Conze welcomed the Mediaset stake as a “vote of confidence in our strategy and team.” ProSiebenSat.1 shares jumped 7.1% in early European trading on Wednesday.
What is unclear at this stage is how Mediaset and ProSiebenSat.1 plan to integrate their activities to make this alliance bear fruit.
“We have to wait and learn what business initiatives can be generated by this financial investment,” Italian investment firm Fidentiis Equities said.