15.09.2020, Luxembourg/Germany, RTL Group
On 14 September 2020, CEO Thomas Rabe welcomed more than 260 executives to the second RTL Group Virtual Management Meeting, to discuss how the Group had demonstrated resilience through the coronavirus crisis and how it will shape its future.
Thomas Rabe opened by welcoming participants from Europe, the US and Canada, as well as six speakers from across RTL Group. “I would also like to welcome Martin Taylor, our Chairman, and several members of our Board of Directors – it’s great to have you,” said Thomas Rabe. He set the forward-looking tone of the meeting by stating that, while corona is still very much part of our daily lives, RTL Group’s businesses are picking up and optimism is returning. This message was underlined by an introductory video that demonstrated how the Group reacted to the crisis with creativity, agility and resilience (watch it here).
To start the meeting, RTL Group’s Executive Committee gave an update on RTL Group’s performance in 2020. CEO Thomas Rabe reiterated the Group’s priorities during the coronavirus crisis, ranging from the safety of employees and the continuity of the businesses, to preserving liquidity, and cost and cash flow management.
CFO Björn Bauer gave an update on the Group’s key financials in the first half of 2020 and highlighted: “By all standards, and also comparing to our media peers, it is fair to say that we are on track to weather the current crisis successfully. Since the low point in April and May, the market environment has been progressively improving, and July and August were actually ahead of our previous expectations. As the crisis is not over and the digital transformation progresses, we will continue to focus on cost efficiencies across RTL Group – also to remain in the position to be able to keep on investing in our growth businesses.”
COO and Deputy CEO Elmar Heggen continued with an update of the operations and said: “In addition to the important financial achievements presented by Björn, we can all be proud of how RTL Group performed on the programming side across its entire footprint.” During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, RTL Group increased its net reach, viewing times and digital usage across its channels and platforms. In addition, the Group gained both net TV advertising market shares and outperformed its commercial competitors on audience ratings in its three largest markets. Elmar Heggen stressed that news was a key ratings driver for RTL Group. “The ‘can-do' attitude of our news teams to serve our audiences, and the ability to come up with creative and improvised solutions – practically overnight – is a trademark of all our news formats.”
Thomas Rabe 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.”
The Executive Committee’s presentation was followed by deep dives into RTL Group’s growth areas of ad-tech, streaming tech, streaming content, content creation and new work.
Thomas Servatius, Co-CEO of Smartclip, kicked off the session on ad-tech by giving an easy-to-understand introduction to what Smartclip does, the challenges in the fast-moving addressable TV market and the current state of play. Thomas Servatius said: “Our key tasks are harmonising advertising technology within RTL Group, building an EU alliance for broadcaster ad-tech and we want to innovate by building technology for the future of TV advertising.”
Jonas Engwall, CEO of Bedrock, presented the streaming technology company Bedrock, which is a cloud-based streaming platform already used by Groupe M6, RTL Belgium, RTL Hungary and RTL Croatia. As of October 2020 French customers can experience the platform with Salto in France (Backstage reported) and, from 2021, Videoland and RTL XL in the Netherlands will also be based on the Bedrock technology. Jonas Engwall said: “Bedrock is a pooling of resources to create a streaming platform partnership. A platform partnership is the best option for most players to create the scale needed to meet users’ streaming expectations, which are set by the global streaming platforms.”
Ellen van den Berghe
Ellen van den Berghe, Head of Content VOD at RTL Nederland, pointed out how the corona crisis affected the Dutch streaming platform Videoland and that being the national streaming champion with serialised, local content is most important for the platform’s success. Ellen van den Berghe said: “For the next year, we want to focus on new fan communities and brands. The next upcoming show on Videoland will be available as of 18 September 2020. It is a Dutch version of the Emmy-award winning fanbrand Ru Paul’s Drag Race.”
Matthias Scholten © William Rutten
Matthias Scholten, Managing Director of FC Group, presented the rationale of the Format Creation Group (Backstage reported), which is developing formats for RTL Group broadcasters. With this approach, RTL Group fully owns the rights of those formats, which is necessary as traditional content producers have increasingly more customers with Netflix, Amazon and Apple on the streaming market. Matthias Scholten concluded: “We are a very young, ambitious team with the focus of bringing six to eight new formats to the platforms of our stakeholders every year. Corona is a hiccup – but it can also be an opportunity for us.”
Julia Reuter © MGRTLD / Marina Rosa Weigl
Julia Reuter, Chief People & Culture Officer at Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, gave first-hand insights on the results of an employee survey on new work at RTL Deutschland, and presented how RTL Deutschland is developing – together with their employees – a concrete concept for new work. Such a successful hybrid work framework needs technology, space and health concepts as well as changed leadership. Julia Reuter said: “Hybrid work does not only mean using shared desks and having workplace flexibility. It will become an essential feature of being one of the most attractive employers.”
Dominik Lucha, currently a working student at Divimove, presented his personal project impressively. On his Instagram-account @WasIhrnichtseht (What you don’t see), he shares stories of everyday racism in Germany that get people thinking, to help deepen understanding. Dominik Lucha said: “We are all racially socialised, and with it our institutions.” In his presentation, he calls in particular for training that addresses racism and stereotypes, especially for white people in leadership roles.
Thomas Rabe on diversity & inclusion: “Diversity & inclusion is becoming increasingly important for our businesses. All facets of diversity – whether ethnic, gender, cultural or any type of diversity – are key drivers for creativity in our business, and crucial for our success. And as Dominik Lucha said, we do not have enough non-white colleagues in leadership positions at RTL Group – but we will address and change this.”