Fremantle, the RTL-owned global production empire behind shows including American Idol, Too Hot To Handle, and We Are Who We Are, suffered a 39% drop in earnings as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out TV shoots across the world.
Fremantle’s adjusted earnings before interest, tax, and amortization (EBITA) stood at €87 million ($104M) in the full-year 2020, down €55M ($66M) on €142M in 2019, according to RTL’s annual report. Revenue also dropped 14.3% to €1.79 billion over the same period.
Fremantle’s financial woes are not unusual, with other production groups reporting similar trends in recent days. Red Arrow Studios, another European-owned production company, recorded a 12.6% decline in EBITDA to €42M last year. ITV Studios’ profits sunk 43% to £152M ($212M).
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Fremantle group CEO Jennifer Mullin said: “As 2020 came to a close, 90% of all Fremantle productions affected by the pandemic were either fully delivered or back in production. Throughout 2020 our global gameshows and continuing dramas in particular stood up extremely well to the challenges and finished the year in line with our 2019 performance.
“Our global footprint allowed us to increase local scripted production to 15 territories and deliver 54 shows, which is ahead of the 2019 comparison. Despite a year like no other, we celebrated the successes of many new Fremantle shows and formats including Too Hot To Handle for Netflix and received global critical acclaim for our drama slate, including The Salisbury Poisonings, My Brilliant Friend and The Investigation.”
Meanwhile, Fremantle’s parent company RTL Group — Europe’s largest commercial TV company — recorded a 9.5% drop in revenue to €6.65B. EBITA was down 26.2% to €1.15B. RTL now has 2.19 million streaming subscribers across TV Now in Germany and Videoland in the Netherlands.
RTL CEO Thomas Rabe said: “2020 was a year of both unprecedented challenge and major achievements for RTL Group. We managed to strike the right balance between implementing cost and cash flow countermeasures, maintaining our market positions and investing in the future of our businesses, in particular in streaming and advertising technology.”