September 13, 2018 / 9:46 PM / a year ago

Mediaset CFO says no talks for now on creating pan-Europe TV player

MILAN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Mediaset’s idea of creating a pan-European TV player could happen sooner than expected, though there are no talks at present, the Italian broadcaster’s finance chief said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The Mediaset tower is seen in Cologno Monzese neighbourhood Milan, Italy, April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

Speaking at a presentation of programming plans, Marco Giordani said none of Europe’s generalist TV operators was in a position to buy the other, but added a way had to be found to scale up operations to improve businesses.

“We have the good fortune of being a leader in two countries, but there is nothing operative and nothing will happen in the next few weeks,” he said.

Other European broadcasters also say no talks are going on, although one, Germany’s ProSiebenSat 1 Media, would entertain the longer-term possibility of a cross-border deal to counter the threat of U.S. streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Teaming up on streaming is also a live issue as companies like ProSiebenSat 1 and RTL Group try to build digital platforms to cater for binge-watching younger viewers.

Mediaset owns 52 percent of Spain’s Mediaset Espana. On Monday, it said it had no plans to buy out the rest.

“There’s no deadline but we need a lot of luck and I can’t say if it will be this year,” Giordani said.

On Wednesday, Mediaset CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi said the group was working on a large merger or acquisition in Europe’s TV sector. The CEO said in June Mediaset was looking to create a pan-European broadcaster.

The head of ProSiebenSat 1 told Reuters on Thursday the group was not discussing a cross-border European merger but was instead focusing on developing its own business.

A spokeswoman for France’s largest private TV broadcaster, TF1, also said the company was not discussing a major European cross-border deal with Italy’s biggest private broadcaster.

A source close to RTL Group, which is controlled by German publishing house Bertelsmann and broadcasts in several countries, also said no talks were happening.

“There is no idea on our side to pursue such a deal – we already are a European broadcaster,” said the source.

The source added Bertelsmann, which has a 75 percent stake in RTL, would not support any deal that would dilute its holding.

Mediaset, controlled by the family of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, tried to broaden its business in 2016 with a pay-TV agreement with French media giant Vivendi aimed at building a southern European media powerhouse.

But that deal fell through when Vivendi, which owns 28.8 percent of the Italian group, backtracked, leading to a court battle.

Giordani said on Thursday he believed a solution could be found to the dispute between the two companies.

Reporting by Giancarlo Navach and Douglas Busvine, Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Dan Grebler and Mark Potter

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