TF1 and M6 groups, France’s top two commercial networks, have abandoned their plans to merge after being auditioned by France’s anti-trust board.

“Following the debates with the Authority and despite the additional remedies proposed, it appears that only structural remedies involving at the very least the divestment of the TF1 TV channel or of the M6 TV channel would be sufficient to approve the proposed merger,” said the companies in a joint release. As a result, the “proposed merger no longer has any strategic rationale,” the statement continued.

TF1, which is owned by Bouygues, and M6 Group, which is part of Bertelsmann-owned RTL Group, had unveiled their merger plans to form a $4-billion European media powerhouse back in May 2021.

M6 and TF1 said they regretted that the anti-trust board failed to take into account “the speed and extent of the changes sweeping through the French broadcasting sector,” as well as the “increased competition from the international platforms.”

The anti-trust board had raised a number of competition concerns over the merger back in July, especially regarding the advertising market. But TF1 and M6, which are both listed companies, had communicated on these challenges and seemed confident that their respective hearings (on Sept. 5 and 6) would yield a positive outcome.

The proposed merger would have seen Bouygues keeping a 30% stake in M6 Group, and RTL Group retaining 16% of the capital. Bouygues would had have exclusive control over the merged company.

News of the abandoned merger plans will surely relieve some industry players, including other broadcasters and producers, who feared TF1 and M6, which have separate obligations to invest in French content, would have bundled their obligations and centralized their sales force.

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