Ready for recovery

14.05.2020, Germany, RTL Group

On 13 May 2020, CEO Thomas Rabe invited more than 130 executives to the first RTL Group Virtual Management Meeting, to discuss how to steer the Group through the coronavirus crisis.

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Thomas Rabe opened by welcoming participants from Europe, the US, Canada and Asia, as well as nine guest speakers from across RTL Group and Bertelsmann, to the interactive digital meeting.  

Thomas Rabe backstage in the studio at RTL Deutschland © MGRTLD/ Stefan Gregorowius

Thomas Rabe started his presentation by outlining RTL Group’s priorities during the coronavirus crisis, ranging from the safety of employees and the continuity of the businesses, to preserving liquidity and being ready for the restart.

He focused particularly on the safety of our employees, which has been his top priority over recent weeks. Thomas Rabe said: “There have been a limited number of RTL employees infected overall, and we believe none of them caught the infection on our premises.”

He continued: “Liquidity is the most important currency during a crisis. This was a major learning from the financial crisis in 2008/2009. We have ample liquidity and there is no need for state support – thus we are ready for all scenarios, whether we see a quick or slow recovery.”

Regarding the recent implementation of home office, he stated: “Many colleagues tell me that for them, lockdown and working from home has been an energising experience and a period of high creativity and ingenuity – and it worked very well. The new reality will be a hybrid, and I’m open to discussing home office in the future with the local CEOs and their Heads of HR. We will therefore invest more in our technical infrastructure to remote, automate and simulate everything.”

Thomas Rabe also focused on RTL Group’s strategic framework and reiterated that despite the economic uncertainty “RTL Group’s three-priority strategy – core, growth, alliances & partnerships – remains unchanged. We will continue to invest significantly in content, and build national streaming champions to reach our ambitious targets of 5 to 7 million subscribers in Germany and the Netherlands by 2025.”


In brief:

  • First RTL Group Virtual Management Meeting…
  • …with 132 top executives from across the Group…
  • …of which 1/3 were female executives
  • For 90 minutes, colleagues from all business units from Europe, the US, Canada
    and Asia joined
  • 9 speakers shared their experience and knowledge
  • Thomas Rabe guided everyone through the agenda and moderated the meeting


Thomas Rabe’s presentation was followed by an update from RTL Group’s major business units. Bernd Reichart, CEO of RTL Deutschland, Nicolas de Tavernost, CEO of Groupe M6, Jennifer Mullin, CEO of Fremantle, and Sven Sauvé, CEO of RTL Nederland, reported on how the coronavirus had affected their employees, financials and operations. They all emphasised the increased reach of news and entertainment with, at the same time, a strong decline in advertising revenues in the broadcasting business.

Six speakers from across the Group then addressed the challenges and opportunities in three key areas: advertising sales, content and news reporting, complemented by a first-hand crisis report from China.

Stéphane Coruble Managing Director of RTL Ad Connect, kicked off the session on advertising sales by outlining the challenges of the coronavirus for the international advertising industry and how various sectors are affected differently. Frank Vogel, the newly appointed Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the German Ad Alliance continued presenting concrete examples of how Ad Alliance reacted to the crisis and created 40 different ‘Corona offers’ with new communication solutions.

Jennifer Mullin, CEO of Fremantle, talked about how Fremantle is managing the crisis, with a rising demand for content and production under difficult conditions she said: “It takes all of us to be open, creative and agile to produce in post Covid-19 times.” Highlighting content trends for escapism she shared the success of Too Hot To Handle, produced for Netflix. Henning Tewes, COO Programme Affairs at RTL Deutschland, pointed out how RTL Deutschland adjusted its programme grid during the crisis. Henning Tewes said: “We want to exit the crisis even more clearly as Germany’s number one streaming broadcaster than we entered it.” He also presented a novelty that RTL Deutschland initiated in Germany – a virtual producer’s round table (Backstage reported).

Régis Ravanas, Managing Director Audio Activities of Groupe M6, presented how their news outlets covered the crisis on RTL Radio in France. Régis Ravanas pointed out: “When the lockdown occurred, we decided within a few hours to transform our scheduling. We wanted to provide larger slots of information and more interaction with the audience.” He also highlighted a new 'Coronavirus brigade' – a team of journalists that fights fake news during the crisis.

Annabelle Yu Long, CEO of Bertelsmann China and Managing Partner of Bertelsmann Asia Investments, gave first-hand insights into how she and her colleagues at Bertelsmann in Beijing experienced the crisis and how China has returned to a ‘new normal’.

Thomas Rabe concluded the virtual meeting with the key corona take-aways so far, and once again highlighted: “All employees showed great team spirit and solidarity – physically distant – but in a way closer than ever and cooperating even more. Together we all demonstrated the relevance of media and contributed to society in a meaningful way.”


Impressions from the participants:


Andreas Bartel

“It’s been a very interesting and very inspiring presentation and it’s a great format! We are heading to a ‘new normal’ and it will be very exciting to see what it looks like – and even more exiting to be an active part of creating that. Thanks, Thomas, Bernd, and all the presenters.”
Andreas Bartl, CEO of RTL Zwei, Munich

Lena Vynogradova

“Thank you for this great format and insights. It provided a lot of confidence and inspiration to see people and businesses around the world being engaged and creative during these challenging times.” 
Lena Vynogradova, SVP Accounting Policies & Compliance at Bertelsmann, Gütersloh, Luxembourg and Cologne. In her position, Lena is also in charge of Consolidation at RTL Group.

Marc Puškarić

“Given the current restrictions, it has been a good idea to create a new format for reconnection and exchange within our group. In this way we could experience how united we are in standing up for our joint values and in our countless initiatives to face the current challenges. Furthermore, it has been great to share key take-aways in order to pro-actively shape the future of our industry.” 
Marc Puškarić, CEO of RTL Croatia, Zagreb

Natalie Tideström Heidmark

“After yesterday’s virtual management meeting I’m, if possible, even more motivated! To feel the strength and power of RTL Group and Bertelsmann, and that we are all in this situation together, creates commitment and an even stronger team spirit. By having the right strategies, formats like this and shared learnings, we will come out stronger, more innovative and faster moving than ever.” 
Natalie Tideström Heidmark, CEO of United Screens, Stockholm


© MGRTLD/ Stefan Gregorowius © MGRTLD/ Stefan Gregorowius © MGRTLD/ Stefan Gregorowius © MGRTLD/ Stefan Gregorowius

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