The international media industry is in the middle of a fundamental transformation, with huge opportunities for those prepared to shape the future.
RTL Group transforms its business for higher reach and better monetisation to unlock these opportunities. Combining linear TV channels and non-linear services increases total reach and requires investments in content, marketing and state-of-the-art streaming services. Targeting, personalisation and recommendation improve the monetisation of that reach and requires investments in advertising technology and data.
RTL Group’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee have defined a strategy that is built on three priorities:
Wherever attractive opportunities arise, the Group aims to consolidate across its existing European broadcasting footprint – including through mergers and acquisitions – to create strong families of channels. To compete with global tech platforms in the respective national markets requires scale, resources and creativity. Instead of consolidating in larger steps, as initially planned, RTL Group executes a series of smaller steps as an alternative path to scale. This includes, for example, strengthening the Group’s national and international ad sales businesses, fostering distribution partnerships, investments in streaming technology and data, or smaller consolidation steps.
In January 2022, RTL Deutschland fully acquired Gruner + Jahr’s (G+J) German publishing assets and brands from Bertelsmann to further strengthen its leading position and journalistic relevance. RTL Deutschland is reorganising its publishing business to focus on popular and trusted brands such as Stern, Geo, Capital, Brigitte, Gala, Schöner Wohnen, Eltern and Chefkoch. RTL Deutschland plans investments of €80 million in publishing by 2025, €30 million of which will be invested in the paid offer Stern+. Other brands from the portfolio are being sold or discontinued. The reorganisation will reduce costs by €70 million annually by 2025.
Building and extending families of TV channels addresses increasing audience fragmentation and competition in a digital, multi-channel world, with the overall goal of maintaining or growing RTL Group’s audience shares and net TV advertising market shares in the various countries. In past years, RTL Group’s families of channels have been extended by digital channels, including Nitro, RTL Up, Vox Up, 6ter, and RTL Z.
To further strengthen its broadcasting business, RTL Group aims to increase non-advertising revenue. This includes growing revenue from platform operators – cable network operators, satellite companies and internet TV providers – for services such as high-definition TV channels, streaming platforms and digital pay channels (so-called ‘distribution revenue’) as well as intensifying distribution partnerships.
Investing in premium content and exploring all ways to develop and own new hit formats is key to strengthening RTL Group’s core business. In 2022, RTL Group spent around €4 billion on content, combining the programming spend of its broadcasters and the productions of its global content business, Fremantle. Investment in local, exclusive content – including the rights for live sports events – strengthens RTL Group’s linear TV channels, streaming services and its news and magazine formats.
In Germany, RTL Deutschland boasts a strong offering of attractive sports rights. RTL Deutschland is home of the Uefa Europa League and Uefa Europa Conference League, holding broadcasting rights until the 2026/27 season. RTL Deutschland sub-licensed the rights for 12 Uefa Euro 2024 matches and will cover the German men’s national football team extensively. This includes the broadcast of half of all football matches in the Uefa Nations League until 2028, as well as the European Qualifiers for both the Fifa World Cup 2026 and the Uefa Euro 2028. In addition, RTL Deutschland acquired the rights to broadcast all National Football League (NFL) matches including the Super Bowl until 2028 – starting from the 2023/24 season.
In the Netherlands, RTL Nederland acquired the rights to broadcast certain Uefa Champions League matches, starting with the 2021/22 season, for a period of three years. This is complemented by other sports rights such as the Dakar motor sports series until 2027 and the Glory kickboxing fights until 2024.
In France, Groupe M6 holds the rights to the Uefa Europa League and Uefa Europa Conference League for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons. In 2022, Groupe M6 acquired for the first time the free-TV rights of the Uefa Champions League finals in 2025, 2026 and 2027 and the channel shares free-TV rights for 25 matches of the Uefa Euro 2024 with TF1.
In Hungary, RTL Hungary acquired the broadcasting rights for the Uefa Champions League. Starting in the 2024/25 season, RTL Hungary will be the home of the Uefa Champions League matches for three years and broadcast live around 200 games per season – including the finals – on linear TV and on its streaming service RTL+. RTL Hungary has further retained the linear and digital rights to the Uefa Europa League and the Uefa European Conference League for three years for the seasons 2024/25 to 2026/27.
RTL Group’s management continuously reviews the Group’s portfolio. In the past five years, RTL Group sold several non-core assets such as the football club Girondins de Bordeaux and the website MonAlbumPhoto in France, the home entertainment and theatrical distribution company Universum Film in Germany, the Vancouver-based digital video network BroadbandTV (BBTV), the US ad-tech company SpotX, the US-based mobile entertainment company Ludia and the US software and data company for media measurement, VideoAmp.
These disposals are consistent with RTL Group’s strategy to focus on growing its European digital businesses in the areas of streaming and advertising technology, alongside the Group’s global content business, Fremantle.
RTL Group is building national streaming champions in the European countries where it has leading families of TV channels. Making the most of the Group’s competitive advantage in local programming, these streaming services complement global services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+.
RTL Group runs the streaming services RTL+ in Germany and Hungary, Videoland in the Netherlands and 6play in France with various price packages. Lower-priced or free packages are predominantly or fully financed by advertising. Various premium price packages include, for example, parallel streams on various devices, the live signal of RTL TV channels in HD quality and premium content bundles including the programmes of the Group’s linear TV channels in the respective countries, plus premium content either exclusively produced or licensed from third parties.
For RTL+ in Germany and Hungary, and Videoland in the Netherlands, RTL Group pursues ambitious targets. By 2026, the Group will grow its annual content spend to around €600 million and aims to reach 10 million paying subscribers. The Group aims for €1 billion in streaming revenues and reaching profitability by 2026. As of 30 June 2023, RTL Group registered 6.041 million paying subscribers for its streaming services RTL+ in Germany and Hungary and Videoland in the Netherlands, up 34.1 per cent year on year (30 June 2022: 4.506 million).
In Germany, the Group rebranded its rapidly growing streaming service as RTL+ in November 2021 and launched its RTL+ multimedia app at the beginning of August 2023. RTL+ is the first German all-in-one streaming bundle that combines video, music, audiobooks, podcasts and magazine content in one subscription and one app, which is a unique selling proposition in the German-speaking market.
RTL Deutschland partnered with Deutsche Telekom in 2020 to integrate RTL+ Premium within Deutsche Telekom’s TV offer, Magenta TV. Since then, price plans for both Magenta TV Smart and Magenta TV Smart Flex have included RTL+ Premium with no additional fee for customers.
In France, Groupe M6’s streaming service 6play is the ad-funded streaming service with 24.5 million active users. In October 2022, Groupe M6 launched 6play Max, a paid subscription video-on-demand version of 6play, developed by Bedrock, RTL Group’s streaming technology company. Within this subscription users can watch the available content without advertising, in full HD and including download features.
In Hungary, RTL Hungary launched its streaming service RTL+ in 2022. The service offers exclusive local content, which is a unique feature on the streaming landscape in Hungary, and is also based on the technology of Bedrock. The previous services, RTL Most and RTL Most+, were integrated into RTL+ under the subscription packages RTL+ Light and RTL+ Active. Therefore, RTL+ has three models: a paid model without advertising, a TV subscription model, and a registration-based advertising-funded model.
Fremantle is RTL Group’s content business and one of the world’s largest creators, producers and distributors of scripted and unscripted content. Fremantle runs an international network of teams across production and distribution in 27 countries. The company is responsible for around 12,000 hours of programming per year, and distributes content worldwide.
Fremantle aims to achieve full-year revenue of €3 billion by 2025. To reach this goal, RTL Group is investing in Fremantle across entertainment, drama and film, and documentaries – both organically and via acquisitions.
Fremantle pursues three strategic goals:
Fremantle continues to invest in high-end productions to accelerate its growth in drama series, films, and documentaries. With several acquisitions, Fremantle has created a global network that now comprises 21 production sites. Acquisitions include, for example, Miso Film in Scandinavia, This is Nice Group in the Nordics, Wildside and Lux Vide in Italy, Kwaï in France, Abot Hameiri and Silvio Productions in Israel, Dancing Ledge Productions, 72 Films and Wildstar Films in the UK, Passenger and Fabel in the US, Eureka in the US and Australia, and Element Pictures in Ireland.
Fremantle also bought minority stakes in a few new production companies to secure first access to their creative talent and output. Working with world-class storytellers is key to Fremantle’s scripted strategy. Fremantle – together with broadcasters and streaming platforms – delivered over 100 scripted productions including high-end-series, daily dramas and films in 2022. As a result of this strategy, Fremantle generated 35 per cent of its total revenue in 2022 from drama and film productions.
To replicate this success in documentaries, Fremantle has established a new global documentaries division, acquired documentary production companies, and set up its own premium documentary label: Undeniable, which will focus on producing world-class premium feature documentaries.
Combining the strengths of RTL Group’s core business – high reach, brand safety and emotional storytelling – with data and targeting offers significant growth potential for the Group’s largest revenue stream: advertising. Addressable TV will grow the available inventory, attract new advertisers, and can be sold with a premium compared to traditional linear TV advertising.
RTL Group’s largest unit, RTL Deutschland, is responsible for the Group’s ad-tech business, Smartclip. Based on the Smartclip technology, RTL aims to create an open ad-tech platform tailored to the needs of European broadcasters and streaming services. Accordingly, RTL Deutschland will invest further in evolving and growing the Smartclip platform. This includes acquisitions such as French ad-tech company Realytics, which complemented the existing ad-tech stack. Realytics systematically analyses the impact of TV advertising on advertiser websites and ensures data availability for digital ad decision making.
With its European ad-tech businesses, RTL Group made significant progress in building an open European ad-tech platform and in tapping into the high-growth market of addressable TV (ATV) advertising. RTL Group expects that RTL Deutschland will generate approximately €200 million in ATV advertising revenue by 2027.
The tech platform for RTL Group’s streaming services is built by Bedrock, a French technology company. A common platform allows RTL Group to bundle streaming technology investments. The Bedrock platform serves Groupe M6’s streaming service, 6play, Videoland in the Netherlands, and RTL+ in Hungary.
In competing with the global tech platforms, new alliances and partnerships between European media companies become increasingly important.
RTL Group’s management promotes new partnership opportunities – all based on the philosophy of bundling European broadcasters’ resources to establish open and neutral platforms. RTL Group offers these partnership opportunities in areas such as advertising sales, advertising technology, streaming technology, content creation and data.
One key development for RTL Group’s largest revenue stream – advertising – has been the increased demand from advertisers and agencies for global ad-buying opportunities. Consequently, RTL Group is expanding international advertising sales to cater to the demand from international advertisers and agencies for easy access to the Group’s large portfolio of TV and streaming services, digital video company and advertising technology, in a brand-safe environment.
In 2022, RTL Group combined RTL AdConnect, G+J iMS and the media division of Smartclip to create an international advertising sales champion: RTL AdAlliance. RTL AdAlliance provides international advertisers with simplified access to a unique portfolio of media brands across TV, digital video, radio/audio, online, mobile and print.
On the national level, the German Ad Alliance launched in 2016, offering high reach to advertisers and agencies. The German Ad Alliance is a one-stop-shop for the development of cross-media solutions and innovative advertising products. Its portfolio spans television, radio/audio, print, and digital. Ad Alliance is the only sales house in Germany that offers complex, all-media campaigns from a single source.
RTL Nederland followed this example by building an integrated advertising sales network for the Dutch market, also called Ad Alliance. The Dutch Ad Alliance integrates the sales activities of RTL Nederland, BrandDeli, Adfactor and Triade Media, and is also open to new partners.