Takeover rocks Flemish media world

Summary

It’s being described as the biggest upset in the Flemish media world since the arrival of VTM, the first commercial TV channel, in 1989. Last week, the search for a new owner for Flemish stations VT4 and VijfTV ended with an agreement between the German owners ProSiebenSat 1 and a consortium formed of production house De Vijver, newspaper publisher Corelio and magazine publisher Sanoma.

© Sofie Silbermann/VRT
 
© Sofie Silbermann/VRT

Sale of VT4 and VijfTV “good news for the viewer”

It’s being described as the biggest upset in the Flemish media world since the arrival of VTM, the first commercial TV channel, in 1989. Last week, the search for a new owner for Flemish stations VT4 and VijfTV ended with an agreement between the German owners ProSiebenSat 1 and a consortium formed of production house De Vijver, newspaper publisher Corelio and magazine publisher Sanoma.

De Vijver takes over the two channels for a price of €175 million. That price is reckoned to be too high by some analysts and by the competition, which included RTL Group and De Persgroep, part-owners of VTM. However, the premium may be worth it just to gain immediate entry to the TV market at such a high level. While both VT4 and VijfTV are junior channels in terms of audience figures, they are both carried into every home in Flanders and Brussels. This offers a potential audience far greater than the other alternative - the creation of digital channels like those of Studio 100.

Woestijnvis, the production wing of De Vijver, holds the key to the desired market penetration. Not only does it have the track record of making both popular and critically acclaimed TV programmes, it also has the competition in something of a choke- hold. Until now, the company has made programmes for other broadcasters, mainly the VRT. Now, it's more likely to give preference to its own channels. "Certain things will have to change," commented the VRT's new chief executive, Sandra De Preter. The public broadcaster has sketched out "various scenarios" for the future, which will now be considered in the light of the latest events, she said.

A concern for VTM, meanwhile, is that the two channels will be able to exercise more of an attraction on the shrinking market for TV advertising. "Is the cake big enough?" wondered advertiser André Duval of top agency Duval & Guillaume. "There's always money available for quality, so the advertisers are going to have to make choices."

Flemish media minister Ingrid Lieten welcomed the deal. "The more strong players there are in Flanders, the higher the quality, and that's good news for the viewer," she said. Open-VLD senator Bart Tommelein, who specialises in media affairs, agreed that the deal should press existing players like the VRT, the VMMa (which owns VTM) and the independent production houses to perform better. "They should see the new landscape as a challenge, not as a threat," he said.

Groen's media spokesman Bart Caron foreshadowed the problems facing the VRT: "The public broadcaster will lose a large part of their best programmes, a number of well-known TV faces and especially a great deal of creativity." The deal now has to be formally approved by the Competition Council, but according to economy minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, no problems are foreseen.

Pictured: The 2009 drama series Van vlees en bloed, produced by Woestijnvis

De Vijver
owned by: Corelio, Sanoma, Wouter Vandenhaute and Erik Watté (each 33%)
owns: 100% of Desert Fishes, which owns 100% of Woestijnvis and 40% of De Mensen; also owns 100% of VT4 and VijfTV and 50% of Flanders Classics cycle races
products: 49% of Humo magazine, TV shows like De slimste mens ter wereld and Man bijt hond, produced first feature film Loft in 2008

Corelio
owned by: Corelio Group, a public company
owns: 33% of De Vijver; 50% of Flanders Classics
products: De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad, Nostalgie radio, Ackroyd Publications (The Bulletin and Flanders Today)

Sanoma Belgium
owned by: Sanoma, a Finnish publishing group
owns: 33% of De Vijver, 51% of Humo
products: Story, Flair, Libelle, Goedele

 

Takeover rocks Flemish media world

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