RTL Plus, the Bertelsmann-owned RTL Group’s streaming service, is being expanded into a cross-media entertainment service, comprising video, music, podcasts, audio books and e-magazines.

RTL Group has raised its streaming targets and now aims for 10 million paying subscribers for RTL Plus (formerly TV Now) and Videoland, and for €1 billion ($1.15 billion) of streaming revenue by the end of 2026.

Streaming revenue from RTL Plus and Videoland was up 31% to €162 million in the first nine months of the year (January to September 2020: €124 million), thanks to a strong growth in paying subscribers for both services. Subscriber numbers were revealed as 3.4 million at the end of September.

Achieving the new targets would make RTL a robust European competitor to the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max. Annual investment in content will be tripled to €600 million by 2026.

RTL group CEO Thomas Rabe said: “We will create Germany’s first cross-media champion, offering our audiences the most diverse spectrum of high-quality entertainment and independent information.”

Fremantle, the content arm of the group, has had a strong 2021 so far, with revenues up 24% to €1.29 billion ($1.49 billion) for the January to September period, compared to €1.03 billion during the same period in 2020.

The RTL Group has interests in 67 television channels, 10 streaming platforms and 38 radio stations. The group’s content business, Fremantle, is one of the world’s largest creators, producers and distributors of scripted and unscripted content, including “American Idol,” “Britain’s Got Talent,” and “The X Factor.”

During this nine-month period in 2021, the second season of Fremantle’s “Too Hot to Handle” registered over 29 million views in its first month on Netflix. Other successful formats included “Game of Talents,” the French version of “Farmer Wants A Wife” and “Indian Idol,” “The Mosquito Coast” on Apple TV Plus, the third season of “Shtisel” on Netflix as well as “The Investigation” on HBO and the BBC.

Fremantle’s film “The Hand of God,” directed by Paolo Sorrentino and produced by The Apartment for Netflix, is Italy’s entry for the Oscars and Fremantle’s documentary “Arctic Drift: A Year In The Ice” was sold to 170 territories worldwide, while the series “Veleno: The Town of Lost Children” launched on Amazon Prime Video.

In September 2021, Fremantle acquired twelve production labels from NENT Group – now called This is Nice Group – in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, operating across non-scripted, scripted and factual. The same month, Fremantle completed the sale of its 100% shareholding in Ludia Inc. to U.S.-based mobile entertainment company Jam City for $165 million.

The RTL Group financial results showed growth across the board. Group revenue was up 10.% to €4.4 billion. Advertising revenue was €2.47 billion, up from €2.11 billion in 2020, of which €1.99 billion represented TV advertising revenue, €232 million digital advertising revenue and €148 million radio advertising revenue. RTL Group’s distribution revenue was up 4.9% to €320 million. The group has net cash of €498 million.

“RTL Group has defined clear targets for its growth businesses of streaming, addressable TV advertising and content – and we will have the financial flexibility and capabilities to further boost these businesses to create value for our viewers, clients and shareholders,” Rabe said.