COVID-19 Downturn Hits Ad Sales at European TV Giant RTL

Thomas Rabe - PR Head Shot - H - 2011

RTL, which controls 'American Idol' producer Fremantle, saw double-digit drops in profit and revenue as the coronavirus shutdown hit international advertising markets.

European television powerhouse RTL Group saw double-digit drops in both revenue and operating profits in the first half of 2020 as the company, which controls production giant Fremantle (American Idol) and networks including Germany's RTL TV and France's M6, was hard hit by COVID-19-driven declines in TV ad sales.

Group revenue at RTL fell 16.4 percent to $3.13 billion (€2.652 billion) in the first half, with second quarter revenue slumping a massive 28.3 percent to $1.4 billion (€1.186 billion). The group reported operating profits (EBITA) of $284 million (€241 million),for the half, a 55.2 percent drop on the same period last year. Net profit, at $184 million (€156 million) was down 64.8 percent on this time last year.

Understandably, RTL attributed the decline to the COVID-19 crisis, which has pushed economies across Europe into recession and had a knock-on effect on advertising markets.

One of the few positives of the lockdown came with RTL's streaming businesses, which racked up new subscribers. At the end of June 2020, RTL Group registered 1.77 million paying subscribers for its German streaming services TV Now and Videoland in the Netherlands, a 45.2 per cent year on year increase.

Salto, the joint subscription streaming service run by RTL's M6, Groupe TF1 and France Télévisions, is targeting a autumn 2020 launch.

RTL is forecasting the decline of net TV advertising markets to slow down in the third quarter but is still projecting a 10 percent year-on-year drop, assuming the current mild recovery continues.

But the group declined to give a full-year revenue and profit forecast.