VIENNA (Reuters) - German media group ProSiebenSat.1 ruled out a takeover by Italian broadcaster Mediaset on Thursday, dismissing recent speculation, and added it had not been approached by other interested parties.
Italy’s biggest commercial broadcaster has repeatedly raised the idea of creating a pan-European TV player to fend off competition from established rivals and online content providers such as Netflix.
Asked whether Mediaset could tie up with “the Germans”, Mediaset Chairman Fedele Confalonieri said earlier this month a cross-border deal was still being studied, lifting ProSiebenSat.1 shares.
“I would rule out a takeover by Mediaset,” Deputy Chief Executive Conrad Albert told Reuters at the Vienna 4Gamechangers festival. Asked about a possible merger of the two, he declined to comment.
The Munich-based group’s shares are trading near a seven-year low, prompting speculation that cash-rich private equity buyers could be tempted to break up the company.
When asked whether interested parties had approached the group, Albert said no.
ProSiebenSat.1, a 3.3 billion euro ($3.7 billion) free-to-air TV group has restructured into three divisions - entertainment, content and e-commerce.
Albert said he was focused on working with peers including Mediaset, in the context of an existing European Media Alliance. That network of 12 broadcasters aims to cooperate in terms of IT infrastructure, video streaming and digital marketing.
Like other broadcasters, ProSiebenSat.1 has faced headwinds from weak TV advertising, which still contributes nearly half of its revenue.
Advertisers are returning however as they increasingly realize that broadcasters can often reach a broader customer base than most digital channels, Albert said.
Traditional broadcasters need to be “more confident, louder, and more unified,” he added.
“In the German language market the demand from customers is intense: ‘offer us something’.”
The challenge is to offer them a common platform over different channel, Albert said.
To create a level playing field for European broadcasters that compete with global giants like Netflix, politicians and regulators need to create a comparable regulatory framework for the digital world, he said.
Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; Editing by Alexandra Hudson