Three of France’s leading media investors have taken their first step in an ambitious plan to invest €1bn-€2bn in European television production, as they seek to capitalise on the changing viewing habits of consumers.
Mediawan, an acquisition vehicle set up last year by Xavier Niel, Matthieu Pigasse and Pierre-Antoine Capton, announced on Monday it was in talks to acquire the whole of Groupe AB, a French broadcasting group that produces, distributes and aggregates TV content in French-speaking Europe. It is offering €270m for Groupe AB, which estimates it will have generated revenues of €158m in 2016.
“We will use this platform to make further acquisitions and create the first independent production platform in Europe,” said Mr Niel, the billionaire entrepreneur who runs telecoms operator Iliad and is co-owner of Le Monde newspaper with Mr Pigasse.
Mediawan plans to use Groupe AB as a stepping stone to buy other European production companies across all sectors including television series, animation and films. By bringing all of these together on one platform it hopes to be in a stronger economic position to negotiate the distribution of these programmes.
Changing patterns of consumption are driving consolidation of content and media in Europe and globally, as the market adjusts to the emergence of “over-the-top” services such as Amazon and Netflix that allow viewers to watch programmes on demand and encourage them to consume entire series in one sitting.
“New players such as Netflix and Amazon, and growing demand from consumers means that the value of content is growing,” said Mr Pigasse, chief executive of Lazard France and co-owner of Le Monde newspaper.
The Mediawan group wants to tap into what it sees as increasing appetite for European productions abroad, as shown in the success of series like the Young Pope andGomorrah, which were produced and premiered in Europe and were later distributed in the US.
“We think there’s demand for European content to distribute abroad through channels such as Netflix and Amazon,” said Mr Capton, founder of 3e OEil Productions, the largest French independent media producer.
The emergence of Mediawan, which raised €250m when it listed on the Paris stock exchange in April last year, illustrates how the war for content is hotting up.
Altice, the owner of French telecoms network SFR, has been aggressively expanding into TV content, putting it head to head with Vincent Bolloré, the French billionaire who owns a controlling stake in Vivendi and has set out to build the “Netflix of Europe”.