The two groups revealed on Tuesday that a first report – not public – from the institution responsible for enforcing the balance of competition in France said it was unfavorable to their union.
Thus, “the dream that we shared” of a French audiovisual champion “is not necessarily shared at this stage by the analysis of the services (of instruction) of the Competition Authority”, has summarized the CEO of TF1, Gilles Pélisson, on the sidelines of the publication of the group’s results.
“Before the dream becomes a nightmare, there needs to be a moment of reason, of awakening, thinking maybe my dream will end there,” he added.
If the “remedies” required by the report in the face of the “very significant problems of competition identified”, in particular in television advertising, were to “be put in place”, the project would lose “all relevance”, and the “parties will not hesitate to (the) stop”, insisted Mr. Pélisson.
Between them, TF1, owned by Bouygues, and M6 (put up for sale by the German Bertelsmann, shareholder of RTL Group) account for around 75% of French advertising turnover.
The two groups ask the Authority to consider this market share taking into account competition from digital platforms, “which are getting closer and closer to the television model” according to Gilles Pélisson, as evidenced by the arrival next commercial on Netflix.
They will be able to reiterate their arguments during hearings on September 5 and 6 before the college of the Competition Authority, which will decide in October and is not required to follow the opinion of the investigation services.
If necessary, an intervention by the Minister of the Economy is possible to “override” the opinion of the Authority, “for reasons of general interest”, recalled Bruno Le Maire in March before the Senate.
The minister had thus used in 2018 his “power of evocation”, during the acquisition of William Saurin by Cofigeo, in order to “preserve employment”.
– World Cup –
In the meantime, the CEO of TF1 is delighted with the “satisfactory” results of the group, which recorded a profit of 126.5 million euros in the first half, up 16.7% over one year, for a turnover approaching 1.2 billion euros (+5.2%).
They include nearly 7 million euros in exceptional charges related to the merger project.
Advertising revenues climbed moderately (+1.6%) to 815.5 million euros, the slight decline observed in the second quarter – without the men’s Euro football which had benefited the group last year – being compensated by “the good dynamics” of the first, according to TF1.
Despite a drop in audiences, TF1 remains “largely in the lead on its commercial targets” such as women under 50 (33.5% of PDA), argues Gilles Pélisson, recalling the phenomenal success of the HPI series.
Inflation and the conflict in Ukraine have not weighed “significantly on the results of the group”, which is betting in the second half on the World Cup in Qatar.
Its subsidiary Newen Studios will also deliver two “important” series to Canal+ (“Marie-Antoinette”) and Apple TV+ (“Liaison”, the platform’s first original Franco-English production, with Vincent Cassel and Eva Green).
TF1 has also settled its digital diversification operations in recent weeks, with the sales of its Unify division (Marmiton, Doctissimo, Aufeminin, etc.) — the sale of which to Reworld Media will take effect in the second half of the year –, and of the international influence marketing agency Ykone, valued at 124 million euros minimum, according to the press release. TF1 also sold its digital advertising subsidiary Gamned! for nearly 50 million euros, according to a presentation by the group.
For its part, the M6 group presented mixed results on Tuesday, with turnover up 3% compared to the first half of 2021, to 664 million euros, but net profit down 22 .4%, to 92.5 million euros.