Chris Dziadul looks at RTL’s strategy in Central and Eastern Europe
While much of the discussion about RTL Group’s results for 2006 will undoubtedly focus on its operations in Western Europe – Germany and France, for instance, together account for over 60% of revenues – it is those in Central and Eastern Europe that provide real food for thought.
RTL Group is currently present in three very different markets in the region. In Hungary, the national commercial station RTL Klub made its debut 10 years ago and has since been involved in a fierce battle for both audience share and ad revenue with SBS Broadcasting’s TV2. The latest figures point to a clear lead for RTL Klub in both, though, it has to be said, TV2 remains a formidable competitor.
What is more, the Hungarian market is slowly but surely changing. While the RTL Klub/TV2 near duopoly and public broadcaster MTV’s financial predicament is likely to remain a feature for some time to come, so too are the large number of thematic channels and their growing audience share.
A somewhat different situation exists in Croatia, where the national commercial station RTL Televizija, which made its debut in April 2004, has established itself as a strong challenger to the public broadcaster HTV and pulled well clear of CME-owned Nova TV. In the key area of ad revenue, RTL Televizija says it accounted for 42.9% of the total, as opposed to HTV’s 43.3% (for its two channels), in 2006. Nova TV, on the other hand, had only 13.8%, though CME provide a figure of 18% without specifying the year.
Yet it is in Russia where RTL Group undoubtedly faces its biggest challenge. Having acquired a 30% stake in Ren TV for an undisclosed fee, it is finding the going in what is a highly competitive marketplace anything but easy. The station’s ad revenue, for instance, rose by an impressive 28% in 2006 but still saw its share of the total fall by 0.1% to 5.6%.
RTL Group clearly has plans for further expansion in Central and Eastern Europe. Its decisions on where and when to move next will certainly be based on the valuable experience it has gained to date in Hungary, Croatia and Russia. (CD)