German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 says that it has begun “meaningful cooperation” with fellow European broadcaster MediaForEurope in areas including advertising, technology, and content. The statement marks progress for MediaForEurope’s ambition to build a pan-European TV giant, through collaboration with, and direct acquisition of, other major European TV businesses.
ProSiebenSat.1 Media’s CEO Bert Habets said in an interview with the Financial Times that collaboration between European broadcasters could help them access global ad budgets. These budgets, he said, are increasingly being allocated on a pan-European basis. And in a tough TV advertising market, any initiative which can help reverse a trend of declining TV ad revenues will unsurprisingly be welcome.
A change in thinking
MediaForEurope has for years spoken of the need for European broadcasters to rally together, and present a more united front against the US-based streaming giants.
MediaForEurope itself has united the two Mediaset TV brands, Mediaset and Mediaset España. And these two broadcasters, alongside Channel 4 in the UK, TF1 in France and ProSieben, are involved in cross-European BVOD sales house the European Broadcaster Exchange (EBX).
But the company has struggled to drive deeper collaboration. It’s built up a significant stake in ProSieben over the years, getting a seat on the business’s supervisory board earlier this year. But ProSieben has previously seemed somewhat ambivalent towards MFE’s interest. Executives at ProSieben have previously explicitly spoken against a full merger. And MFE has previously publicly called on the German group to engage with conversations around collaboration, suggesting that ProSieben has been reluctant to do so.
Today’s news however suggests a change in thinking. ProSieben has had a tough year so far, announcing earlier in the summer that it is laying off around 400 staff, following a period of falling group revenues. And in that context, the broadcaster is seeing potential benefits to working with MFE.
Habets didn’t say the exact nature of the ways in which the businesses are collaborating. But it seems the talks are far reaching. The fact that ProSieben is talking about working together on content, something which even MFE isn’t fully sold on according to the FT, suggests that the company is considering all options.
ProSieben isn’t the only one which seems to have had a change in thinking. MFE has previously seemed set on direct acquisitions. As recently as last December, the group notified the Austrian competition authority that it was planning a full buyout of ProSieben.
But now MFE seems to be backing away from mergers. In February, the company ruled out a full merger with ProSieben for the time being, stating that it would instead focus on closer cooperation. As VideoWeek reported earlier this year, there’s a high risk that regulators wouldn’t clear such a move, given how TF1’s proposed merger with M6 fell apart because of competition concerns. And it’s not clear that MFE has the resources or unified management which would be necessary to pursue such a merger.