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COLOGNE, Germany — RTL Group, Europe’s leading television company, posted record profits in 2010, coasting on the rising wave of advertising revenue that has lifted all boats in the Euro free TV business.
Following similarly bullish figures from competitor ProSiebenSat.1 and Britain’s ITV, RTL reported a 8.4% jump in revenue to $7.8 billion (€5.6 billion) and a nearly 40% increase in operating (EBITDA) profits to a record $1.5 billion (€1.11 billion). Net profits attributable to RTL’s shareholders tripled to $849 million (€611 million).
While revenue figure is still below the all-time highs of the boom years 2006-2008, RTL CEO Gerhard Zeiler said it still reflects a “stronger than expected rebound in the Western European TV advertising markets, the enduring impact of our significant costsavings in 2009 and the leading market positions of our families of channels in our key territories…In other words: we’ve capitalized on the economic recovery because our TV channels emerged stronger from the crisis than before.”
RTL’s growth came largely from its flagship networks — Germany’s RTL, France’s M6 and RTL Nederland and RTL Belgium’s channels in the Benelux region. Another big earner was London-based production arm FremantleMedia, producer of the Pop Idol and Got Talent franchises, which booked EBITDA earnings of $195 million (€140 million). RTL exited the British free-to-air market last year when it sold money-burning network Five to Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell company for $150 million.
Zeiler would not give a growth forecast for 2011 except to say he was “very optimistic” about TV’s overall potential.
Outlying RTL’s strategy, he said the company would continue to trim fat from its core, big reach, big revenue generating free-TV channels while boosting Fremantle through acquisitions, such as last year’s majority takeover of branded content production company Radical Media.
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