Strong rebound in TV advertising and high streaming growth

12.03.2021, Luxembourg, RTL Group

On 12 March 2021, RTL Group announced its audited results for the year ended 31 December 2020. 

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Strong rebound of TV advertising in the second half of 2020

  • Group revenue decreased 9.5 per cent to €6,017 million (2019: €6,651 million), mainly due to declining TV advertising markets across Europe in Q2/2020 and lower content production revenue as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Group revenue was down 6.8 per cent organically.
  • TV advertising revenue across the Group was up 0.8 per cent year on year in the second half of 2020 and up 2.8 per cent year on year in Q4/2020.
  • Streaming revenue from TV Now and Videoland grew by 20.6 per cent to €170 million (2019: €141 million).
  • Adjusted EBITA was down to €853 million (2019: €1,156 million). The Adjusted EBITA margin was 14.2 per cent (2019: 17.4 per cent).
  • Profit for the year decreased by 27.7 per cent to €625 million (2019: €864 million), mainly due to the decrease in Adjusted EBITA. This was partly compensated by lower income tax expense and capital gains.
  • Net cash from operating activities was €933 million. The operating cash conversion rate was 123 per cent (2019: 105 per cent) due to working capital management. With no dividend payment for the financial year 2019 in 2020, RTL Group had net cash of €236 million at the end of 2020 (end of 2019: net debt of €(384) million).
  • RTL Group’s Board of Directors has proposed a dividend of €3.00 per share for 2020 of which €2.50 represents ordinary dividend while the remaining €0.50 relates to the distribution of cash capital gains.
  • Based on the average share price in 2020 (€33.85), the proposed dividend of €3.00 per share represents a dividend yield of 8.9 per cent.


“A year of unprecedented challenge and major achievements”

Thomas Rabe, CEO of RTL Group

Thomas Rabe, Chief Executive Officer of RTL Group, says: “2020 was a year of both unprecedented challenge and major achievements for RTL Group. We managed to strike the right balance between implementing cost and cash flow countermeasures, maintaining our market positions and investing in the future of our businesses, in particular in streaming and advertising technology. This is reflected in a net profit of €625 million, an operating cash conversion rate of more than 100 per cent, audience outperformance of our commercial competitors and rapid growth in numbers of paying subscribers for our streaming services.
Over the past six months, we sold non-core businesses, unlocking significant shareholder value. We continue to strengthen our portfolio with the full acquisitions of Super RTL in Germany and RTL Belgium. And we entered into new partnerships, for example with Deutsche Telekom to grow our streaming business in Germany and to cooperate in advertising technology, advertising sales and content. As stated on 29 January 2021, there is a strong case for consolidation in the European broadcasting industry. We are currently reviewing such options for our controlling stake in the French broadcaster Groupe M6, with a view to creating value for our shareholders. There can be no certainty that this may lead to any type of agreement or transaction.”


Strengthening RTL Group’s core
  • Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland continued to outperform the German TV advertising market, also thanks to the German Ad Alliance.
  • In October 2020, RTL Group completed the sale of its digital video network BroadbandTV to BBTV Holdings Inc. for €102 million in cash.
  • In December 2020, RTL Group agreed with its co-shareholders to acquire their shares in RTL Belgium against a payment in cash and RTL Group treasury shares. The transaction was finalised on 28 December 2020 and took RTL Group’s shareholding in RTL Belgium to 100 per cent.
  • In February 2021, RTL Group signed a definitive agreement for the sale of SpotX to the US ad-tech company Magnite. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close in Q2/2021. The purchase price consists of US-$560 million (€468 million) in cash and 14.0 million shares of Magnite stock. The agreement implied an enterprise value (100 per cent) for SpotX of US-$1.17 billion (€977 million), based on the closing price of Magnite stock as of 4 February 2021.
  • In March 2021, Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland announced a binding agreement with its current joint venture partner, The Walt Disney Company, to acquire the outstanding 50 per cent shareholding in Super RTL. The transaction – which is subject to approval from the German and Austrian competition authorities – will take RTL Group’s shareholding in Super RTL to 100 per cent.

RTL Group’s shareholding in RTL Belgium taken to 100 per cent. Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland to acquire full ownership of Super RTL.

Boosting growth businesses
  • At the end of 2020, RTL Group registered 2.19 million paying subscribers for its streaming services TV Now in Germany and Videoland in the Netherlands, up 52 per cent year on year.
    • Paying subscribers for TV Now grew 64 per cent to 1.286 million (end of 2019: 0.783 million)
    • Paying subscribers for Videoland grew 38 per cent to 0.903 million (end of 2019: 0.653 million)
  • TV Now continues to expand its content offer, with a substantial increase in TV Now originals of around one new format per week – including more than 10 new German fiction series – in 2021. Another driver for TV Now will be the streaming of exclusive matches of the Uefa Europa and Uefa Europa Conference Leagues, starting with the 2021/22 season. In addition, TV Now introduced a new Premium+ subscription in April 2020. Premium+ subscribers can enjoy two streams in parallel, largely ad-free, and with original sound for non-German productions.
  • In November 2020, Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland and Deutsche Telekom announced a strategic partnership. The partners integrated the RTL streaming service TV Now Premium in Deutsche Telekom’s TV offer, Magenta TV. Both companies have also agreed to increase cooperation in advertising technology, advertising sales and content, with a special focus on addressable TV.

  • RTL Nederland introduced a new hybrid model for Videoland with an entry subscription tier (Basis) at a lower price that shows ads and a Premium tier that includes the parallel use of four screens.
  • RTL Group aims to grow its total number of paying subscribers in Germany and the Netherlands to between 5 and 7 million, to grow streaming revenue to at least €500 million and to reach Adjusted EBITA break even by 2025. To reach these goals, the Group will grow the annual content spend for TV Now and Videoland to €350 million in 2025.

In 2020, RTL Group registered 2.19 million paying subscribers for its streaming services TV Now and Videoland.

  • On 20 October 2020, Salto – the joint subscription streaming service of Groupe TF1, France Télévisions and Groupe M6 – was launched in France with more than 10,000 hours of content, and the chance to stream 20 TV channels live in HD quality. RTL Group’s technology company Bedrock provides the tech platform for the streaming service with state-of-the-art content curation and personalisation features.
  • Fremantle continued its push into drama and high-end factual production with the launches of The New Pope on Sky Italia, The Investigation on TV2 in Denmark, We Are Who We Are on HBO and Sky Italia, The Sister on ITV, Deutschland 89 and La Jauria on Amazon Prime, and No Man’s Land on Starzplay. With Expedition Arktis, produced by UFA, Fremantle launched its first high-end documentary, which will be rolled out internationally in 2021. In 2020, Fremantle delivered a total of 54 dramas (including movies, high-end scripted series and daily dramas) from 15 territories – compared to 53 from 14 territories in 2019.
  • With its European ad-tech companies Smartclip and Yospace, RTL Group made significant progress in building an open European ad-tech platform and in tapping into the high-growth market of addressable TV (ATV) advertising. In Germany alone, the market for addressable TV advertising is expected to grow to more than €500 million by 2025, with Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland then generating approximately €200 million in ATV advertising revenue.

Fremantle continued its push into drama and high-end factual production with The Investigation and Arctic Drift. © UFA Show & Factual

Fostering alliances and partnerships
  • After the sales house Media Impact (Axel Springer) became a partner of the German Ad Alliance for its digital inventory in January 2020, Ad Alliance and Media Impact have expanded their advertising sales cooperation to Media Impact’s print titles, for example Bild and Welt, starting in January 2021.
  • On 1 January 2021 Deutsche Telekom has become a partner of the German log-in alliance European NetID Foundation – initiated by Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, ProSiebenSat1 and United Internet.
  • Fremantle, Penguin Random House UK and BMG launched a joint podcast business as part of the Bertelsmann Content Alliance UK. The new podcast company, Storyglass, produces podcast projects across scripted, non-scripted, documentary, true crime, lifestyle, music and talent-led series for all major podcast distribution platforms.


The following outlook assumes that the economic recovery continues in 2021, in particular in Q2/2021, as current lockdown measures are gradually eased and vaccination programmes against Covid-19 progress. 

  • RTL Group expects its revenue to increase to approximately €6.2 billion. This includes organic growth of 8 per cent and the effects of the deconsolidation of BroadbandTV.
  • RTL Group expects its Adjusted EBITA for 2021 to grow to approximately €975 million. This includes streaming start-up losses of approximately €150 million.
  • RTL Group’s dividend policy remains unchanged: RTL Group plans to pay out at least 80 per cent of the adjusted full-year net result.