Bertelsmann CEO Says RTL, ProSiebenSat.1 Should Be Free to Merge

The CEO of German media giant Bertelsmann has said its RTL Group TV division should be allowed to merge with German rival ProSiebenSat.1 and called for a loosening of E.U. antitrust regulations in order to better stave off intensifying competition from U.S. streaming giants.

In an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung published on Sunday, Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe said: “It is vital that sensible partnerships, and even large mergers, are allowed in order to create national champions in television – for example between RTL and ProSiebenSat.1. Otherwise, national companies will simply have no chance in a few years against the giants from Silicon Valley.”

Rabe, who also took the reins at RTL Group as its chief executive last year, added that deregulating the European TV sector was crucial as the competition regulations that govern it predate the creation of companies like Netflix, Facebook and YouTube.

“Competition law does not take into account the forms in which the U.S. platforms are increasingly coming to dominate the media and advertising,” he said.

ProSiebenSat.1 said in response to Rabe’s comments that no talks were taking place at the moment on mergers or acquisitions.

The companies already cooperate closely on a number of fronts, however, and last year launched their advertising technology joint venture D-Force.

In its battle for turf against the likes of Netflix and Amazon, ProSiebenSat.1 has already thrown its hat into the ring by partnering with Discovery on the streaming venture Joyn, which launched last year. ProSiebenSat.1 has invited RTL and other broadcasters to sign up to Joyn, whose content partners already include Viacom International Media Networks and German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF.

ProSiebenSat.1 also collaborates with French TV network TF1 and Italy’s Mediaset on their Studio71 multichannel network, where the shareholders have formed a European alliance in the advertising-video-on-demand sector.

The European entertainment sector’s response to the growing threat posed by the likes of Amazon and Netflix will be high on the agenda at this year’s European Film Market during the Berlin Film Festival, which kicks off on Thursday.

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