European broadcasting heavyweight RTL has warned of “persistent weakness” in the TV advertising market, as it posted Q3 revenue down more than 10% year-on-year.
Group revenues for the quarter were €1.6B ($1.7B), with timing effects at production arm Fremantle and the TV ad market cited as organic reasons. Full year revenue is now expected to be down about €100M to €6.9B, while adjusted EBITA will come in €50M at €900M.
Within the Q3 stats, TV ad revenue was down 3.7% and guidance has been changed from an expectation of small growth to mid-single-digit percentage” declines in the second half of 2023. However, RTL’s family of channels in its main market, Germany, gained audience share over key commercial rival ProSiebenSat.1. RTL boss Thomas Rabe added “the decrease in TV advertising revenue has slowed down significantly” in September.
Like UK counterpart ITV, RTL’s difficulties in linear broadcasting this year have been partially offset by better numbers in the digital space. Though streaming start-up losses for the full year are expected to be around €200M, RTL+ and Netherlands VOD service Videoland now have 6.2 million paying subscribers between them, up 30.3% in a year, and streaming revenue has increased 21% for the nine months to end-September to €236M. RTL is aiming for streaming revenue of €1B and profitability in 2026.
Got Talent producer Fremantle saw revenue fall 10.3% in Q3 to €1.55B, with lower buyer activity, TV ad venues and timing effects all cited. However, it is due to deliver Priscilla, Domino Day, Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream, Helgoland and WWII: From the Frontlines in Q4 and recently secured a €150M fund to finance high-end scripted TV and film projects, with the Angelina Jolie starrer Maria the first to benefit.
RTL is still challenging Fremantle bosses to increase full-year revenues to €3B by 2025, with the producer-distributor aiming to achieve that through organic growth and acquisitions. We revealed earlier this year the company has spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars on production investments in recent years, though RTL has ruled itself out of a deal for Fremantle rival All3Media.
”Despite challenging market conditions, we are pursuing the transformation of our businesses with significant streaming and technology investments,” said RTL CEO Rabe.
“Our streaming business grew strongly, with around 1.5 million net paying subscribers added over the past 12 months. In October, we started a major marketing campaign for Germany’s first all-inclusive entertainment app, RTL+ – comprising video, audio and text in one app.
“As expected, the decrease in TV advertising revenue has slowed down significantly in the third quarter and we have seen strong performance across the group in September. Going into the fourth quarter, however, the European advertising markets are turning out to be softer than we expected, and despite countermeasures, we have had to adjust our outlook.”