Mipcom 2009 – Cannes. The number of news channels in Europe has doubled since 2005 thanks to an increase in distribution networks and the digitisation of networks, according to research by the European Audiovisual Observatory. Although the market for news channels is currently worth more than €1 billion, the profitability of most is far from guaranteed.
The European Audiovisual Observatory and the DG Communication of the European Commission will jointly organise a workshop on the television news market in Europe at Mipcom this Wednesday, October 7.
Almost half of the news channels of European origin that were active in September 2009 were launched in the last five years. Only 28 European news channels can claim to have more than 10 years experience, according to the Observatory.
The doubling of the number of news channels since 2005 shows the impact of the digitisation of networks, which has allowed an increase in distribution capacity. In fact, news channels are rare on the analogue terrestrial networks, where there is limited spectrum: there are just seven in Europe that are accessible on these traditional networks.
There are, however, 16 news channels on the various digital terrestrial (DTT) networks, and the availability of news channels is clearly much stronger in the packages of satellite, cable and ADSL networks.
Of interest is the fact that news channels are spreading onto the mobile networks (television for mobile or personal mobile television services). One can already note eight news channels (all private) that have been conceived especially for mobile phone services. News channels such as BBC World News, Al Jazeera, Sky News, France 24 and BFM TV have also been among those who were the first to launch an application that allows their accessibility on the iPhone.
Thirty three of the 119 European news channels are publicly owned. Public service broadcasters therefore have a strong presence in the news fielddespite the fact that taking all genres into account the public services represent only 5% of all European television channels.
The 119 European news channels are offered in a total of 26 different languages, the six dominant ones being English (16 ), Italian, Arabic and Turkish (11 each), German (10) and French (nine).
The digitisation of cable and satellite networks and, particularly in France, the emergence of services on ADSL networks, has proved to be beneficial for diversity. TV viewers in each country who have multi-channel services have an average of 21 news channels available to choose from.
This average is well exceeded in France (with 51 news channels), and also in Germany (33), the UK (31), Italy (30), The Netherlands (30) and the Belgian Flemish Community (30). The presence of immigrant populations also encourages a diverse offer: it is possible to receive many Asian news channels in the UK and France, and also Turkish channels in Germany.
The multiplication of news channels has given rise to an even more fiercely competitive market, where competition is already driven by high production costs and low audience shares (2 to 3% of the national total audience).
The financial situation of news channels is not always easy to analyse: a certain number of them are integrated into the large public service groups (BBC News Channel, Rainews 24, Canal 24 Horas) or into the large private media groups (i>Télé, Sky News, Antena 3, Noticias 24) where their individual accounts are not accessible. Hence, it is only possible to get an overview of the economics and financial details of those channels that are broadcast by 15 companies who only broadcast television news channels.
Of these half were in deficit in 2007 and 2008. The total revenues of news channels in the European Union is somewhere in the region of €1 billion – €1.5 billion, while the total revenues of all broadcasters is approximately €80 billion.
The figures also reveal a wide disparity in the size of operating revenues of the companies: around €300 million for the German public service company Deutsche Welle, and less than €2 million for the small Spanish channel Libertad digital (which originated from a political/current affairs magazine conceived for the Internet).
The effect of the recession in the advertising market is already visible in 2008 in the profits of the French channel LCI (-13.7 %) and of CNN International (-2.6 %). It can also be noted that many broadcasting companies have not yet published their accounts for 2008.