By Douglas Busvine and Elvira Pollina
BERLIN (Reuters) – Mediaset said it would not seek confrontation at ProSiebenSat.1’s annual general meeting on Tuesday but the German broadcaster’s largest shareholder pressed home its call to collaborate on strategy.
The Italian media group, controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, wants to bring about cross-border consolidation to enable European broadcasters to compete more effectively for advertising dollars.
It has built up a stake of nearly a quarter in ProSieben in support of that goal, but the broadcaster of “Germany’s Next Topmodel” has repeatedly rebuffed its overtures, instead diversifying out of entertainment into dating and e-commerce.
“Mediaset is a long-term shareholder,” Chief Financial Officer Marco Giordani told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
“Our position as a long-term shareholder is not to apply pressure. We would love to have more engagement,” he added, offering to support the development of ProSieben’s entertainment business.
Mediaset said it controls a stake of 23.5% in ProSieben via shares and other financial instruments. Of that, it owns a direct voting stake of 12.4%, based on disclosures by the German company.
Giordani said Mediaset would back management’s resolutions at Tuesday’s AGM, saying: “It’s not the time for fireworks, but rather the time to build the right strategy for all ProSieben shareholders.”
But he said Mediaset took a flexible position on its holding in ProSieben. It had increased its direct shareholding in ProSieben in January and that process would continue.
DUTCH PLANS ON TRACK
Mediaset’s plans to establish a new business base in the Netherlands, to be called MediaforEurope (MFE), received a boost when it ended a long-running legal dispute with shareholder Vivendi.
With the French media group lending its support, MFE should be established in September, creating “a company that can start to consolidate the market”, said Giordani.
Time is short, he said, pleading for Europe’s commercial TV industry to build a common advertising platform that can compete with the dominant digital advertisers, Google and Facebook.
He dismissed in-country mergers, such as the recent deal struck in France between RTL’s Groupe M6 and TF1, which is controlled by Bouygues, as failing to address the industry’s revenue weakness.
“It’s pretty easy to find fast synergies on costs. But the media’s problems in Europe are not costs – they are revenues,” said Giordani.
“If you want to compete with the large sellers of advertising, you have to offer a continental product.”
Giordani said he was sure that European consolidation would happen: “We want to be part of this consolidation. We want to propose and explain how our consolidation will be the successful one.”
He also said that, after a strong first quarter, Mediaset’s second quarter would be better. “We are very happy about how the business is performing today.”
(Writing by Douglas Busvine. Editing by Jane Merriman)