Why M6 and RTL remain in the hands of the German Bertelsmann

► Why is the M6 ​​group no longer for sale?

The series of the sale of the M6 ​​group ended prematurely on Monday October 3, 2022 at the start of the evening. In a statement, RTL Group, owned by German media giant Bertelsmann, said it was ultimately retaining its 48.3% majority stake in the French group.

The M6 ​​channels (M6, W9, 6ter, Gulli, Téva, etc.) and RTL radio stations (RTL, RTL2, Fun Radio, etc.), in which he has been a shareholder for thirty-five years, will therefore remain in his pocket. To the chagrin of the three suitors who had quickly submitted offers – described as “financially attractive” by the German group – after the failure of the merger with the TF1 group.

The first, initiated by producer Stéphane Courbit (Banijay Group) and the CEO of shipping giant CMA CGM Rodolphe Saadé, valued Bertelsmann’s stake at 1.2 billion euros. A second was proposed by Xavier Niel, associated with the Berlusconi family, which controls the Italian group MediaForEurope. The third came from the Czech Daniel Kretinsky, owner of CMI France (She, Marianne. france sunday… and participations in the Le Monde and TF1 groups).

► What stood in the way of this sale?

RTL Group explained that “the legal risks and uncertainties are too high due to the required approval processes from antitrust and media authorities, and the timing of the next license renewal of the main channel M6”.

Remember that the process of merging the M6 ​​and TF1 groups was initiated in May 2021, almost seventeen months ago. The competition authority would have issued its decision in mid-October 2022 if the groups had not given up on joining in mid-September. Why ? Because they weren’t resigned to handing over the TF1 and M6 channels as they were asked.

The schedule was “more than ultra-tight”had recognized at the end of September Roch-Olivier Maistre, the president of Arcom (ex-CSA), who must also give the green light to any sale or merger.

The audiovisual policeman also recalled that the frequency authorization was granted to M6 until May 2023, after which any change of shareholder would no longer be possible for five years. This measure was taken in 2016 to prevent holders of a DTT frequency from trading in their free license issued by the State, as happened in 2015 with the Number 23 channel.

► What lessons can be learned from this missed sale?

For the employees of the M6 ​​group, it is a return to square one after a lot of energy and resources invested in the merger with TF1, and a relative break in the development of audiovisual production, digital or the Salto platform. (launched with TF1 and France Télévisions). “The M6 ​​group will play a key role in any further consolidation of the French television industry”, also underlined Thomas Rabe, the president of RTL Group, leaving the door open to new investors in the coming years.

These long months of negotiations have also revealed the appetite for audiovisual media of new players, including Rodolphe Saadé (CMA CGM), Stéphane Courbit (Banijay), Xavier Niel (Ilial) or Daniel Kretinsky (CMI).

Finally, in terms of regulations, the competition authority rejected the change in scope of “relevant market” advertising defended by Bouygues and RTL Group. The TF1 and M6 groups (which would have shared 75% of the television advertising market) wanted to include digital advertising in the calculation. By measuring themselves against the digital giants, they would have gone from the status of colossi to that of average players.

The competition watchdog considered that television remained “a very powerful medium”, especially with the “25 to 49 years old”, “main commercial target of advertisers”. And that this power was not questioned “within the foreseeable horizon”, since the streaming platforms (Netflix, Disney +) had “vocation to remain paid models”. However, cheaper subscriptions with advertising will soon be offered by these same players.

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