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American Idol absence casts unflattering light on solid RTL results

Guillaume de Posch and Bert Habets

Guillaume de Posch and Bert Habets

The presence of American Idol on Fox in the US in the first quarter last year cast an unflattering light on RTL Group’s comparative performance for the first three months of 2017, with revenue down 1.9% and EBITDA down 8.3%.

Excluding the American Idol effect, RTL’s Q1 revenue was up 4%, in line with guidance, boosted by a strong advertising performance and digital growth. Production unit FremantleMedia has meanwhile announced that the talent show will be taken up by rival US network ABC.

RTL posted sales of €1.405 billion for the quarter, and EBITDA of €264 million. In addition to American Idol, the EBITDA number was hit by lower contribution from M6-owned football club Girondins de Bordeaux. The French commercial broadcaster posted EBITDA of €76 million, down from €90 million.

RTL’s digital revenue grew strongly by 48.3% to €178 million. MCN BroadbandTV’s revenue was up 118%, while StyleHaul was up 100%. Advertising technology outfit SpotX saw its revenue rise by 17%.

April saw RTL participate in a Series B funding round for cross-screen data optimization specialist VideoAmp, taking its stake to 24%.

“Following the exceptionally strong first quarter 2016 with an early Easter, we have returned to regular business in the first quarter of 2017. Nonetheless, our profitability remains on a high level and we will continue to significantly invest in digital and content,” said Bert Habets and Guillaume de Posch, co-CEOs of the group.

The pair highlighted the significance of FremantleMedia’s ongoing push into drama and the forthcoming launch of Amercian gods on US pay TV channel Starz, which they said would contribute to renewed growth for the production outfit in the second quarter.