Profits Soar at European TV Giant RTL

Nik Koniezny
RTL is investing in primetime series, like Cold War drama 'Deutschland '83.'

First-half profits jump 73 percent, with Germany and digital operations leading the way.

RTL Group, Europe's leading television company, posted strong first-half figures on Thursday, with revenues up to $3.15 billion (€2.788 billion) and net profits jumping a dizzying 73.8 percent to $397 million (€351 million).

As has been the case for sometime now, RTL's success was largely a reflection of the juggernaut that is its German television business. RTL Deutschland posted operating profits of $388 million (€343 million) for the first six months of 2015, a first-half record and 9.6 percent up on first half 2014. RTL has profited from a robust German economy in which traditional TV advertising remains strong alongside strong growth in new digital markets.

RTL has made a major push into online services, acquiring digital hubs including BroadbandTV, StyleHaul and online video advertising platform SpotXchange. Revenues at RTL's digital operations shot up 94 percent to $248 million (€219 million) in the first half.

RTL's production subsidiary FremantleMedia, which counts formats like X Factor and Got Talent among its stable, said its 210 odd YouTube channels racked up 6.1 billion views in the first half of the year, a 35 percent jump. Overall, all of RTL Group's catch-up TV services, multi-channel networks and websites had a total of 42.5 billion online video views over the period, a 171 percent increase.

“In the digital age of total choice, the fundamentals of our business have never been more promising,” said RTL co-CEOs Anke Schaferkordt and Guillaume de Posch in a joint statement. “In total, people watch more video content than ever before — longform and shortform, linear and non-linear, on the TV screen and on multiple devices. The demand for high-quality video content is growing rapidly, as does online video advertising ... In terms of RTL Group’s aggregated online video views, we expect our full-year figure to reach more than 80 billion this year.”

Fremantle, which is best known as a non-scripted entertainment company, has upped its investment in primetime drama, with recent productions including German cold war drama Deutschland 83, which aired on AMC's Sundance TV, and Starz' upcoming fantasy series American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman's best-seller. On Thursday, Fremantle announced it had acquired a majority stake in Wildside, the Italian production company behind HBO/Sky/Canal Plus series The Young Pope. In January, Fremantle took a 25 percent stake in U.K. fiction producer Corona TV and, earlier this week, announced a first-look deal with famed Brit sitcom writing team Marks & Gran.

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