RTL chief talks advertising

Zeiler: Terrestrial broadcasters must make cuts

EDINBURGH -- Free-to-air advertising is not coming back any time soon, RTL chief executive Gerhard Zeiler said Saturday, predicting a wave of consolidation across the continent and warning that networks must cut costs, innovate in advertising and develop a pay-TV strategy in order to survive.

His comments came as speculation swirled through the ranks at the Edinburgh International TV Festival that Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan is to step down before the end of the year. Reportedly “agreed in principle,” the departure will likely be announced soon, after months of disagreements on the Channel 4 board about the broadcaster’s future direction.

Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson’s term of office also runs out at the year-end, effectively leaving the broadcaster leaderless until a new team is appointed.

Channel 4 has made no comment on the rumor, but possible candidates could include ITV director of television Peter Fincham, Channel Four director of television Kevin Lygo and BBC director of vision Jana Bennett.

Delivering the annual Worldview lecture, the chief executive of the pan-European broadcast group that operates 42 channels across Europe said terrestrial broadcasters needed to make cuts of “at least 10% if not 15 or 20%,” but that audiences need not necessarily be affected.

“Some say this won’t be possible. I say it’s not only possible, it is necessary,” Zeiler told execs, citing the 10%-17% cuts across all RTL channels in the U.K., Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium imposed in the first half of the year. Zeiler said all had increased audience shares.

“We have plenty of examples all over Europe where costs are decreasing and audience shares are even increasing,” he said.
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