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European media giant RTL Group has dropped plans to merge its Dutch TV operations, RTL Nederland, with Talpa Networks, the TV group controlled by TV mogul and The Voice creator John de Mol.
RTL Group on Monday said the Dutch competition authority ACM had informed them it planned to block the deal, first announced in 2021, which would have created a regional TV giant.
It’s the second time in less than a year that RTL has seen its expansion plans stymied by regional competition authorities. Last September, RTL walked away from an agreement to merge its French commercial network M6 with French broadcaster TF1 after French anti-trust authorities opposed the move.
RTL’s strategy, in France and the Netherlands, was to create “local language champions” with sufficient scale in their individual markets to take on Netflix and other global streamers. The success of streaming platforms poses a threat for traditional free-TV networks in Europe, which are not used to competing with such deep-pocketed tech companies for local viewers.
But the Dutch authorities saw things differently. In a statement, RTL said the ACM believed the RTL-Talpa merger would violate Dutch anti-trust laws because the new company would have a near monopoly in the local TV ad market. Talpa proposed outsourcing its ad sales operations to a third party, Mediahuis Nederland, but, according to RTL, the proposal “did not sufficiently mitigate [ACM’s] concerns.”
RTL and Talpa criticized the ACM decision, saying Dutch authorities “did not take into account the speed and extent of the changes in the Dutch media landscape and the impact of these changes on local media companies … a merger of RTL Nederland and Talpa Network would have been the right strategic response to the challenges resulting from the increased competition with the international platforms.”
It will likely be a few weeks before the ACM issues its formal decision, but RTL and Talpa have already cancelled the deal. In a statement, RTL CEO Thomas Rabe said RTL Nederland “is and will remain a key asset for RTL Group” and that the company remained convinced “that market consolidation is necessary to compete with the global tech platforms — and that market consolidation will happen in the European TV markets sooner or later.”
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