On 16 November 2021, CEO Thomas Rabe welcomed more than 250 executives to the fourth RTL Group Virtual Management Meeting to discuss how the Group is being transformed into a cross-media champion and global content powerhouse.
Thomas Rabe opened by welcoming participants from Europe and the US, the 11 speakers from across RTL Group as well as RTL Group’s Board of Directors. Thomas said: “It would have been better to meet in person, but under the circumstances of increasing infection rates in some countries, it’s better to host a virtual meeting.” He set the forward-looking tone of the meeting by outlining what had happened in the Group since the last meeting.
To start the meeting, the Executive Committee gave an update on RTL Group’s performance in 2021. CEO Thomas Rabe reiterated the Group’s highlights from the first nine months of the year, ranging from a strong performance, significant TV consolidation moves, the boost of the streaming business and Fremantle’s growth plan to the biannual Group-wide employee survey and the new RTL brand identity.
Thomas Rabe said: “We decided to boost our streaming businesses on the basis of a strong momentum, with much higher investments in content and platform and much higher subscriber targets. For Fremantle, we defined an ambitious growth plan and a revenue target of €3 billion fueled by high demand for premium content and acquisitions.” Fremantle’s success story will be an integral part of the next RTL Virtual Management Meeting.
He continued with a recap of RTL Group’s strategy framework, focusing on an update on the strategy pillars core, growth and alliances & partnerships. Thomas Rabe reiterated that “the strategy of RTL is fully aligned with the new strategy framework of Bertelsmann, the parent of RTL. And this also means that Bertelsmann fully supports the allocation of capital to RTL for transformation and growth.”
CFO Björn Bauer gave an update on the Group’s key financials in the first nine months of 2021 and highlighted the main points from RTL Group’s recent quarterly results, new streaming targets and the outlook for the full year 2021. On the new streaming targets, Björn said: “Following the strong growth in paying subscribers and as a consequence of the increased investments in RTL+ and Videoland, we have significantly raised our mid-term targets for the two services” (as previously reported). Björn also extended his thanks to the employees for their excellent performance.
COO and Deputy CEO Elmar Heggen continued with an update on this year’s consolidation moves and RTL Group’s target structure and emphasized: “In our last meeting, we said ‘we are ready to act’ – and we lived up to this promise. In May, June and August this year, we announced three major transactions to create national cross-media champions. First, in France with the planned combination of Groupe TF1 and Groupe M6. Second, in the Netherlands with the planned combination of RTL Nederland and Talpa Network. And third, the combination of RTL Deutschland and Gruner + Jahr.”
The Executive Committee’s presentation was followed by deep dives into RTL Group’s transformation areas.
Oliver Fahlbusch, EVP Communications & Investor Relations at RTL Group, and team member Isabell Ostermann, Senior Communications & Marketing Manager, presented the new brand identity of RTL and thanked all teams involved at RTL Deutschland for their collaboration. Oliver highlighted: “The branding project RTL United is about understanding and positioning RTL as Europe’s leading entertainment brand.” Isabell Ostermann concluded: “2021 was a major step in bringing RTL United to life. We are looking forward to continuing the journey and to future-proof the RTL brand.”
Thomas Rabe added: “Brand identity requires discipline and rigor – otherwise the brand zoo will re-emerge fast. We will therefore establish a brand board to ensure consistency and start the international roll-out of the branding in 2022.”
Stephan Schäfer and Matthias Dang, Co-CEOs of RTL Deutschland, presented the transformation process of combining RTL Deutschland and Gruner + Jahr. Stephan stated: “We are convinced that the German market has a relevant size for establishing a cross-media champion with the scale, resources, and creative power to locally compete with global tech platforms. We are creating the first fully integrated media company that offers independent journalism, positive entertainment, relevance, and attitude across all genres. And in doing so, we are pioneers.” Matthias added: “We combine TV and streaming, audio, digital and print with the ambition to be the first address for positive entertainment and independent journalism. With RTL+, we present a product that demonstrates the full power of the combination of RTL and G+J. In many respects, it is a proof point for the realisation of our strategic priorities.” The presentation was followed by a sneak peek into the new RTL+ presented by its Co-Managing Directors Henning Nieslony and Henning Tewes. A comprehensive presentation of the cross-media extension of RTL+ will also be on the agenda of the next Virtual Management Meeting.
Peter van der Vorst, Content Director at RTL Nederland, presented the new programme strategy in the Netherlands under the motto ‘Less is in fact more – taking bold decisions in crisis situations’. Peter outlined: “Before Covid, we were entertaining some big ideas to strengthen our schedule. It meant taking bold decisions, but we had planned to slowly roll out this new, so-called blockbuster strategy. The pandemic inspired us to implement it much faster. More and longer episodes of our strongest brands was the outcome which resulted in a completely new program-grid.” He continued: “We can use our local learnings from the past two years to strengthen our position in the new international VOD domain. That means creating our own IP by focusing on scripted and non-scripted local content, attracting and investing in diverse talent, and making bold decisions to expanding our blockbuster strategy to Videoland. We focus all our marketing and communication efforts on our strongest brands, taking care not to burn time and energy on too many titles. We have learned and proven in the past two years: Less really can be more.”
Gabriella Vidus, CEO of RTL Hungary, showcased how RTL Hungary has evolved its streaming service RTL Most and how they plan to bring it directly to the end consumer. Gabriella made clear: “RTL Hungary is a national champion in the local market and aims to maintain this for the future. Developing a streaming platform is a crucial step in this strategy and we are currently working on an all-in streaming service.” She continues: “There will be a lot of exclusive, locally produced Hungarian content that was never seen before. That means a new episode of a locally produced drama or sitcom every week and a new flagship title every month.”
Thomas Rabe concluded the virtual meeting by highlighting: “I am impressed and proud about the progress we have achieved together – the presentations have clearly demonstrated outstanding entrepreneurship and creativity across the Group. One analyst recently wrote that it takes a long time to turn a ‘supertanker’ such as RTL. I much prefer the concept of a speed boat, and I believe that it has become clear today that we are already on the right track and that we are moving with high speed in the right direction.”
Fourth RTL Group Virtual Management Meeting…
“Of course it was a pity that we couldn’t meet in person, but the VMM nevertheless gave a lot of energy. You could feel the positive and entrepreneurial mindset of all the speakers, which I think is unique. The targets of RTL Group are ambitious, but after hearing the beliefs and drive of the colleagues that spoke, I realised that the question is not whether we will reach the goals, but how fast we will reach them. The power of all our people is phenomenal!”
Georgette Schlick, CEO Fremantle The Netherlands & Belgium
‘’It is super encouraging to hear how quickly our business has bounced back after the Covid pandemic. There’s a lot of change in the Group across Europe, and it’s important to be informed of the latest outlook and developments. Our investments in content creation are bold and the focus on partnerships is crucial for our future.’’
Adrian Wells, Managing Director of Enex
“Really enjoyed the variety and the quality of the content as well as of the speakers. Feedback from the team was they felt engaged and excited to be part of the RTL Group. Can’t wait for the next one!”
Nathalie Moutin-Luyat, SVP Internal Audit at RTL Group
“The brand principles of RTL are the very core and the heart of RTL Group, and of us at RTL Croatia. These principles and values provide strength and courage for us in our everyday work, and move us to do better and to do more. Executing on business transformation is an undertaking of a lifetime, and we are proud to be part of RTL Group and to deliver. We truly appreciate the insights shared and provided at the Virtual Management Meeting –thank you!”
Ivana Mihelcic, CFO at RTL Croatia
“The format provides valuable insights, something that is always important – but matters even more in times of transformation. It’s great to see this awareness and commitment. I also like the fact that questions from colleagues are covered that are both important and challenging.”
Nancy Julius, COO at We Are Era
Picture credits: Ralf Jürgens