RTL revenue, profits down in 2009

Writes down value of U.K. Channel Five

LONDON -- Pan-European media group RTL posted earnings before interest, tax and amortization slashed by 17.6% at €755 million ($1 billion) for 2009 on revenues down 6.3% at €5.4 billion ($7.5billion), warning that the company "cannot expect a quick recovery of advertising revenues to previous levels."

Parent company to such leading terrestrial nets as Germany's RTL, French web M6 and Britain's Five, RTL is a major buyer of U.S. fare like the "CSI" franchise across Europe. It also owns Fremantle Media, the production, distribution and licensing business behind such co-produced shows as "Idol," and "Britain's Got Talent."

RTL chief executive Gerhard Zeiler said that "tough economic environment" across Europe had triggered group-wide cost-cutting and said the outlook remained tough.

In the U.K., RTL-owned Five posted losses of €41 million ($56 million), down 30% on last year, on revenues down 21% at €303 million ($414 million).

RTL also wrote down the value of the business, which includes the digital channels Fiver and Five U.S., in a non-cash impairment charge of €140 million ($192 million), also writing down the value of its acquired U.S. programs in the face of the advertising downturn.

"After several years of growing its share of the advertising market, the Five family of channels -- including the digital channels Five USA and Fiver -- lost market share in 2009." The company said in a statement.

Five's share of the U.K. TV advertising market also slipped back from 9.6% to 8.4% in 2008.

"Although the revenue decline has slowed considerably since autumn 2009, we cannot expect a quick recovery of advertising revenues to previous levels," RTL noted.
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