Mediaset has made a “friendly” acquisition of a 9.6% stake in German commercial broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 in what is seen by many observers as the first major step in a wider realignment of European broadcasters.
Mediaset CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi, commenting on the move, made it clear that the acquisition was strategic, in line with his view that European media groups needed to join together to fight off the threat presented by US-based tech and media giants in an increasingly globalised business.
“The friendly acquisition of a stake in ProSiebenSat.1 is a long-term choice, aimed at creating value with an increasingly international outlook. It strengthens our existing industrial relationship. Mediaset is proud to invest in the future of free-to-air European television. And it is with the future precisely in mind, that the Mediaset Group, by becoming a shareholder of ProSiebenSat.1, confirms its esteem for the current management,” said Berlusconi.
“The rapid process of globalisation that is determining the international scenario is such that European media companies like us need to join forces if we are to continue to compete, or even just resist, in terms of our European cultural identity, eventual attacks by the global giants. It is in this spirit of collaboration and shared vision that Mediaset, the leader in Italy and Spain, has decided to invest in ProSiebenSat.1. An investment that, we are sure, will create tangible value for both groups.”
ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Max Conze confirmed the friendly nature of the move in a Tweet: “We welcome Gruppo Mediast’s investment and see this as a vote of confidence in our strategy and the team,” he said.
Speculation about Mediaset’s intentions towards ProSiebenSat.1 has been mounting for some time. The pair are already partners – along with other media groups including France’s TF1 – in the European Media Alliance, a loose grouping of major commercial broadcasters with a common interest in developing advanced advertising platforms. The goal of the alliance is to allow member broadcasters to benefit from economies of scale in investment in such platforms.
The two broadcasters took the time to deny press rumours about a possible merger in April, when Mediaset issued a statement that “no negotiations are underway” with the German media group. ProSiebenSat.1’s Conze meanwhile told Reuters that he saw “no industrial logic” in such a combination.
This followed earlier reports that Mediaset was looking to consolidate its Spanish subsidiary, Mediaset España, as the first step in a wider European play.
Mediaset said that the acquisition would not have any impact on its valuations to be made at a board meeting in July that will propose the distribution of dividends for the 2018 financial year.