French Regulator Probes Merger Between Top Two Broadcasters

France’s antitrust watchdog said on Friday it was launching an in-depth review of the merger project of TF1 and M6, the country’s top two listed broadcasters.

TF1 and M6 owners, respectively French conglomerate Bouygues and Germany’s Bertelsmann, want to combine the broadcasters in a bid to fend off the rise of video platforms such as Netflix.

Boygues, a French firm founded in 1952, made its fortune in construction and other industrial processes before acquiring TF1 in 1987, when the broadcaster was privatized. The TF1 Group, controlled by Boygues, includes 10 TV channels, including Free-to-air and Pay TV channels. The group has been active in recent years within the dynamic telecomm market.

Bertelsmann, a German entertainment group with activities in the education sector, also includes household name brands such as publishers Penguin Random House and music company BMG. Bertelmann’s broadcasting arm, RTL, is Europe’s largest commercial broadcaster.

The companies say the combination of the know-how of their employees and of their strong brands, would allow the new group to invest more and to step-up innovation. The proposed merger is critical to ensure the long-term independence of French content creation and to continue to offer diversified and premium local content to the benefit of all viewers.

The AdC’s antitrust probe against the broadcasters could be a test case for potential alliances elsewhere in Europe, such as Germany where Bertelsmann has called for the creation of national champions to challenge streaming rivals.

“There is a strong case and a need for consolidation,” he said. “I’m convinced that partnerships are more important than ever, especially after the coronavirus, which hurt European TV broadcasters and has helped the US streaming platforms,” said Bertelsmann Chairman Thomas Rabe in 2020, urging regulators to allow European media companies to pursue mergers and partnerships.

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