The $36M deal gives Europe’s largest commercial broadcaster a 51% stake in BroadbandTV — and a small hedge against the softening overseas ad sales that contributed to the 18.9% drop in RTL Group shares so far this year on the Frankfurt exchange. RTL Group says that the acquisition is “part of a planned series of investments” in BroadbandTV and “creates a new platform for RTL Group’s digital strategy.” Vancouver-based BroadbandTV is the fifth-largest provider of YouTube videos and will continue to be run by its charismatic Iran-born founder Shahrzad Rafati. The companies “have defined an ambitious growth plan fueled by investments in technology, advertising sales, content, international expansion and talent,” she says. The alliance “will enable content owners and creators across the globe to achieve their ambitious goals, which is one of the key reasons for BroadbandTV’s existence.”
As it seeks to expand, Europe’s biggest media company, Bertelsmann, plans to spend as much as 3B euros ($3.9B) on acquisitions over the next three years, a move that reflects the current culture of increased media M&A activity in Europe. The company recently said it would reduce its stake in broadcasting giant and FremantleMedia owner the RTL Group, potentially raising about $2B. CEO Thomas Rabe said today that those proceeds coupled with about 500M euros in annual net cash flow would help fund individual deals worth “a couple hundred millions of euros,” according to Bloomberg. Bertelsmann is looking to expand into digital content and emerging markets and Rabe said, “It is our clear objective to grow the company in the next couple of years. Assuming a little bit of tailwind from a recovery in Europe, we expect to grow to 17B euros this year and 18B euros in the next.” An IPO, however, is “off the table for the foreseeable future.”
‘The X-Factor’ Musical Headed To London’s West End
The show’s creator Simon Cowell has granted permission for a London stage version of the TV singing competiton. Cowell and Sony Music’s joint venture Syco Entertainment are partnering with Stage Entertainment UK (Oliver!, Hairspray, Singin In The Rain) to launch the musical next year, Reuters reports. What they’re calling an affectionate poke at Cowell’s TV show, X Factor – It’s Time To Face The Musical! will hit London’s West End in early 2014. British comedian Harry Hill is writing with Steve Brown handling music and Sean Foley is directing. Story centers on fictional character Chenice who finds herself and her talking dog in line waiting for an audition that will change her life.
It sure looks like it. Thomas Rabe, who became CEO of Europe’s largest media company in January, said today that an IPO is one option to help “reshape Bertelsmann over the next five to ten years” — especially to fuel investments in digital ventures. To underscore how serious he is about the idea, Rabe said the 177-year old Berlin-based company will change its legal status to facilitate a stock sale. The announcement is a surprise: The Mohn family, which controls Bertelsmann, has resolutely opposed an IPO. One-time CEO Thomas Middelhoff lost his job in 2002 when he when he tried to take the company public. Under Bertelsmann’s new legal status, the Mohns could retain control and still sell stock to outsiders. Investors would be placing a bet on the continent’s largest TV company. Bertelsmann owns RTL Group, which has several stations and networks — and also owns Fremantle Media, which produces American Idol and The X Factor, and owns the rights to several game shows including The Price Is Right. The parent company also owns book publishing giant Random House and magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr. In addition, Bertelsmann’s BMG RM has recently grown into a power in music publishing. Rabe made the announcement as Bertelsmann disclosed anemic financial performance in 2011: Its revenues were up 1.2% to $20.3B but, due in part to several major investments, its profit margin declined to 11.4% from 12.1%. Rabe forecast “moderate increase in revenues for …
Time Warner, News Corp. and private equity group TPG are each said to have made bids in the $1 billion range for the media assets of Turkey’s Calik Holding. The country’s second largest media group has interests in television and print both nationally and internationally via Sabah-ATV which it acquired in 2007 for $1.1 billion. Calik had been seeking offers of around $1.25 billion, The Financial Times reported. Other groups expected to show interest in Calik’s media assets could include ProSieben and RTL, although the deadline for pre-proposals is Tuesday. The Turkish conglomerate put its media assets on the block earlier this month eyeing a completed sale in February. TPG is said to be an aggressive bidder while speculation is that the emergence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. as a potential buyer could drive the price up. In 2006, News Corp. acquired a majority stake in Turkish TV channel Turkish Huzur Radyo TV which was then rebranded under the Fox banner.
‘The Lady’ Set As Opener At Rome Fest
Luc Besson’s The Lady, the political drama starring Michelle Yeoh and inspired by the recently freed Burmese opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been tapped to open the Rome International Film Festival on Oct. 27. It won’t be the first stop for the film, which will make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 12.
Reports: RTL, Time Warner Look At Polish Broadcaster TVN
Shares of stock in Polish TV network TVN rose 10% today amid reports of sales talks. Europe’s biggest commercial broadcaster RTL Group is interested in ITI Group’s $800 million controlling stake in the Polish broadcaster, according to Reuters. And TVN CEO Markus Tellenbach has met with Time Warner reps, Warsaw’s Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper reported.
Hacking Scandal Inspires Satire On UK’s Channel 4
The show, with the working title Hacks, will be set in a fictional paper where staff indulge in phone hacking, blagging and “pinging” to get a story by any means necessary. Guy Jenkin (Drop Dead Donkey) is writing the script based on the scandal which has brought about the closure of the News Of The World and exits of News International execs and top Scotland Yard figures.
‘The Hour’ Back For Second Season On BBC
The BBC confirmed today that the series, written and created by Abi Morgan, will be back for six more episodes in its second season on BBC Two. Set in a BBC newsroom in the 1950s, The Hour is produced by …
I’m told that ITV is still discussing this 3rd show with Syco, which it plans to make after X Factor launches in the U.S. next Fall. The broadcaster hasn’t said yes to it yet. But Ellis Watson, managing director of Simon Cowell’s UK production company Syco, says the next show after Got Talent and X Factor won’t be a talent search. And it will almost certainly be made first by RTL’s production company FremantleMedia
EXCLUSIVE: The European TV producer Endemol will not be among those bidding for the UK’s fifth terrestrial channel. ITV has also walked away from the auction, as has BSkyB and Time Warner. Endemol’s founder John De Mol is bidding, as is Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers. Endemol may still try and get its Big Brother TV show on Five though. RTL wants up to $234 million for the loss-making TV channel. This is beginning to resemble a game of musical chairs. Every time the music stops, another would-be bidder walks off. Endemol was unavailable for comment.
Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers, is seen as a frontrunner to buy UK terrestrial channel Five. Other bidders include John De Mol, founder of TV producer Endemol (Big Brother), and Endemol itself, which De Mol’s investment company Cyrte Investments owns one third of.
You may wonder, as I have, why De Mol would want to bid against a company he indirectly owns part of? The answer is, apparently, that there’s no love lost between De Mol and the company he co-founded back in the 1990s. De Mol’s Cyrte Investments has reportedly teamed up with Talpa Media and Greece’s Antenna Group for De Mol’s personal bid, says the Financial Times.
Analysts believe that RTL wants up to $245 million for Five. It is difficult to put a price on Five because, although it is loss-making, it has a strategic value which belies its place in the market. Five also owns desirable slots on the Freeview digital terrestrial TV service. Like newspapers, there’s bragging rights in owning a TV station. Not many come up for sale. That’s why they’re so prized.
Desmond is a colourful character with a £950 million ($1.4 billion) fortune. His TV interests include digital porn channels Television X and Red Hot TV.
BSkyB was kicking the tyres on Five, as was Time Warner, but both have walked away.