21.04.2017, Luxembourg, RTL Group
Yesterday, 20 April 2017, was Bert Habets’ first official day as our new Co-CEO. Backstage talked with Bert about his leadership style and about Creativity, Consumer, Tech and Talent – as these two Cs and two Ts will keep him particularly busy at the helm of our Group.
First of all, congratulations on your new role. You have been with RTL Group family since 1999. What does this mean for you?
Loyalty is important to me and I like developing a company, seeing results and exploring new possibilities. I’m in it for the long term and like being ahead of the game. Working in media, an industry in a constant state of flux, has taught me that vision and being agile is more important than extensive and detailed business plans. Strategy is great; getting things done is even better.
What is your agenda for the first few months?
Being appointed to the helm of a global giant such as RTL Group comes with great responsibility, but also with the great privilege of collaborating with diverse and very talented people across our international footprint. One of my first goals is to meet as many colleagues as possible in the various countries we operate in, to listen to their views, ideas and concerns. I know the Group very well, but nevertheless taking the pulse of such a large, decentralised organisation is imperative.
How would you describe your leadership style?
The entrepreneurial spirit is a big part of my leadership. It was instilled in me from an early age. My family owned an international fruit and vegetable export company in the south of the Netherlands. As a boy I measured the success of the day according to the number of trucks coming in and going out. Luckily, since then I have learned that entrepreneurship is more than numbers going in and out. It’s about exploring new horizons, takings risks, inspiring and empowering others, learning from mistakes and not looking back too much, but looking at what is needed tomorrow. After all, we are as good as our next success. To this day, I aim to inspire this mindset in others.
So let’s look at what is needed tomorrow. Can you already share any new elements that you would like to add to RTL Group’s strategy?
Well, it’s definitely too early to say today how exactly our strategy will change and evolve. A comprehensive strategy review is a major teamwork project which we will discuss on the Executive Committee and with the management teams across our Group first.
For end of June, we have scheduled an off-site with the OMC, the Operations Management Committee. This will help us create a joint understanding among the business units’ CEOs and the Corporate Centre management for the need for change and for the key challenges and opportunities going forward. What I can already say is that certain topics and beliefs are very important to me and my style of leadership. It all revolves around Creativity, Consumer, Technology and Talent. In short: C-C-T-T.
From left to right: RTL Group Co-CEOs Bert Habets and Guillaume de Posch, CEO of Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland and former Co-CEO of RTL Group Anke Schäferkordt,
CFO of RTL Group Elmar Heggen and CEO of Bertelsmann Thomas Rabe
Could you elaborate on that?
The first C, Creativity, is the quintessence of success in our industry. It is the starting point of everything we do and it is what makes us stand out – we need to invest in it to maintain our leading position. Producing, aggregating, distributing and monetising the best content, across all formats and genres – that is our successful business model. As the importance of exclusive local content is growing, our opportunities also grow. Having said that, leadership in creativity needs freedom to experiment, not being afraid of failures, but learning from them and getting back on the horse for the next hurdle.
RTL Group Co-CEOs Bert Habets and Guillaume de Posch
With our free-to-air channels, we target mass audiences. However, most of our revenue comes from our advertising clients. As you also highlight the importance of Consumers, do you see us getting more into direct-to-consumer businesses?
It is a necessity. Our industry is becoming more and more complex and the media landscape increasingly fragmented. The main reason is quite simple: with digitisation, consumer behaviour keeps on changing at a staggering pace. That means we have to pull out all the stops to follow consumers wherever they are. It is the consumers’ perspective that should guide all our offers and decisions. Consumers no longer care where they watch our content, so why should we still draw strict lines between linear and non-linear, off-line and online? No doubt, the willingness of consumers to pay for their favourite video content is growing in all markets. Nevertheless, advertising will remain our biggest revenue stream for many years to come. And we can only keep on succeeding in advertising sales if we continue to innovate and reach as many viewers, users and listeners as possible.
Bert Habets, Co-CEO of RTL Group with Elmar Heggen, CFO and Head of the Corporate Centre of RTL Group, at the Annual General Meeting 2017
In the last three years, the Group has invested in ad tech companies such as SpotX and Smartclip. Why is Technology so important for a creative business like ours?
Technology has become an additional success factor in our business for both the consumer and advertising market. Our Group currently achieves 26 billion views per month. We have already achieved a considerable reach which comes on top of the millions of viewers we reach every day through our TV channels and radio stations. However, we need to find a way to better monetise these billions of online videos views. At the same time, we are always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’ for advertisers on our linear TV channels. This is only possible with state-of-the-art technology. I see a lot of potential in further expanding and strengthening our data and technology-based competencies which we acquired through our key investments in digital video monetisation. We discussed this topic intensively at recent OMC meetings and we all agreed that improving on our tech competencies is one of RTL Group’s key goals.
Bert Habets at the RTL Group Management Congress 2014
At the RTL Group Management Congress 2014 you said: “Let us become rebels with a cause in the digital space, like we once did in the TV realm.” How do you believe that this could be achieved?
I believe we need to shake things up! This can only be achieved by attracting and retaining the best Talent. This is more important than ever – for the entrepreneurs, for the creative side, and for the ever more important technology side of our business. I admit that competition for the best talent is tough and demanding. It includes many aspects such as promoting young talent to management positions early on, diversity, fostering internal mobility across our business units… and giving ‘rebels’ the freedom to operate and experiment. In other words, we should always strive to be the partner of choice for talent – for journalists, actors and content makers, for scriptwriters, techies and start-up entrepreneurs, and of course for young video talent which we service with our multi-platform networks (MPN) businesses such as BBTV, StyleHaul, Divimove and RTL MCN.