Possible sale of M6: towards a consolidation of the French television sector?


After Vivendi announced that it had signed a “promise to purchase” to acquire the entire press group Prisma Media (which controls the magazines Femme actuelle, Capital and Géo) at the end of 2020, it is now the turn of the German group Bertelsmann to announce the sale of its stake in the media group M6.

While discussions remain at the preliminary stage, RTL Group, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, says it noted, in a press release on January 29th, the “recent speculations” on the sale of its 48.26% stake in the M6 group. “RTL Group would like to point out that it has repeatedly stated that there are strong arguments in favour of consolidation in the European broadcasting sector. RTL Group is considering such options […] It is not clear that this could lead to any kind of agreement or transaction. ».

Indeed, the traditional European media groups seem to be facing increasing competition from the digital giants, and seem to be reorganizing in the medium term. The streaming platforms Amazon Prime, Netflix or Disney+ and the digital giants are competing with traditional channels in their markets.

The possible sale of Bertelsmann’s stake in M6, via its subsidiary RTL Group, could mark the exit of the German media group from the French market and consolidate this sector in Europe through the creation of large national media groups (Vivendi and Altice Europe would appear to have been approached).

The Chairman of the Management Board of the M6 group, Nicolas de Tavernost, had already positioned himself in favor of a consolidation of the television sector while emphasizing that such operations could come up against European and French competition[1] regulations: “Let’s start by changing the anti-concentration rules that date back to 1986 and the European competition rules. The threat to media pluralism is not due to local actors, but to globalization. The danger for the EU is to see international groups coming to swallow the local audiovisual and cultural sector whole. ».

On the one hand, let us recall that since 2009, such operations are subject to a so-called merger control by the Competition Authority (France), when :

  • the total worldwide turnover (excluding taxes) of all the companies or groups of individuals or legal entities involved in the merger exceeds 150 million euros;
  • the total worldwide revenue excluding tax generated in France by at least two of the companies or groups of individuals or legal entities involved exceeds 50 million euros.
  • The operation does not fall within the jurisdiction of the European Union[2]. »

The German group would indeed hope to conclude a transaction that could represent around 3 billion euros for M6.

It should also be noted that the audiovisual sector is governed by a specific anti-concentration mechanism under Law 2004-669 of July 9, 2004 relating to electronic communications and audiovisual communication services, a mechanism that could perhaps be applied to such a sale.

UGGC Law Firm  and its team of attorneys specialized in audiovisual and competition law are at your disposal to assist you in the protection of your legal and economic interests.

By the IP/IT team of UGGC Law Firm

Source: REUTERS / RTL Group

[1] Article Le Point 03/12/20 par Olivier Ubertalli : « Nicolas de Tavernost : « M6 et TF1 sont des nains par rapport à Netflix »

[2] Competition Authority, Merger Control

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