European media giant RTL Group has abandoned plans to merge its Dutch TV operations, RTL Nederland, with Talpa Networks, the TV group controlled by TV magnate and The voice inventor John de Mol.
RTL Group said on Monday that the Dutch competition authority ACM had informed them that it intended to block the deal, first announced in 2021, which would create a regional TV giant.
It is the second time in less than a year that RTL has thwarted its expansion plans by regional competition authorities. Last September, RTL walked away from an agreement to merge its French commercial network M6 with French broadcaster TF1 after French antitrust authorities opposed the move.
RTL’s strategy, in France and the Netherlands, was to create “local language champions” with enough scale in their individual markets to compete against Netflix and other global streamers. The success of streaming platforms threatens traditional free-to-air TV networks in Europe, which are not used to competing with such entrenched technology companies for local viewers.
But the Dutch authorities saw it differently. In a statement, RTL said that ACM believed that the merger between RTL and Talpa would violate Dutch antitrust laws because the new company would have a near-monopoly in the local TV advertising market. Talpa proposed to outsource advertising sales to a third party, Mediahuis Nederland, but according to RTL the proposal offered “insufficient mitigation [ACM’s] to assure.”
RTL and Talpa criticized the ACM decision, saying that the Dutch authorities “did not take into account the speed and magnitude of the changes in the Dutch media landscape and the impact of these changes on local media companies…a merger of RTL Nederland and Talpa Network would have been the right strategic response to the challenges arising from increased competition with international platforms.”
It will probably take a few weeks before ACM makes a formal decision, but RTL and Talpa have already canceled the deal. In a statement, RTL CEO Thomas Rabe said that RTL Netherlands “is and will continue to be an important asset for RTL Group” and that the company remained convinced “that market consolidation is necessary to compete with the global technology platforms – and that market consolidation will take place in the European TV markets sooner or later.”