Exclusive: Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 braced for 30% staff cuts & squeeze on programme spend

The Masked Singer (Germany)

German broadcast giant ProSiebenSat.1 is preparing to make cuts to programming while up to a third of staff are to be let go across the organisation, TBI understands.

The broadcast group has been buffeted by advertising headwinds and reported a 7% decline in annual revenue last month, which came in at €4.1bn ($4.41bn), while ad revenue in Q4 was down 12% year on year.

The company is now looking to make swinging cuts across its operations with multiple sources telling TBI that around 30% of posts are likely to be disbanded in the coming months.

It is believed programming and production departments across the entertainment division will be deeply affected, as the broadcaster attempts to reduce costs and considerably reduce its headcount.

This currently stands at around 7,300, down from almost 8,000 a year previous, largely because of the sale of Red Arrow’s US assets to Peter Chernin’s North Road, meaning almost 2,200 staff could be affected.

Bert Habets

There will also be cuts to programming, with show budgets being slashed and some series set to be cancelled altogether. The company is looking to trim around €30m from its content spend in 2023, although this is still likely to stand at €1bn this year.

A ProSieben spokewoman told TBI that the company is in talks with employees but said there was not yet a “concrete decision on how many people will be affected.”

“We need to transform our group and especially the set-up and processes within the entertainment area. Furthermore, we also need to integrate the streaming platform Joyn… Against this backdrop, as well as the current economic environment, we need to rightsize our organization.”

‘Severely weakened market’

The news comes as ProSieben looks to refocus its efforts around entertainment and Joyn – fully acquired from Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this year – under former RTL Group boss Bert Habets, who became CEO in November after Rainer Beaujean exited.

Habets has faced a turbulent time since his arrival, with its latest set of annual results released in April being blamed on a “severely weakened market environment”. ProSieben’s share price has halved since 2021.

Wolfgang Link

Habets has introduced a cost reduction strategy that aims to achieve savings in the low double digit million Euro range and which will be visible in Q4, with the full effect felt during 2024. Some senior staff have already started departing.

Yesterday, Wolfgang Link, CEO at its Seven.One Entertainment Group, confirmed he would be stepping down, with his exit coming just nine months since the exec signed a five-year contract extension with ProSieben.

Link had been with the company for almost 15 years but will depart amid a downsizing of the group’s executive board.

Habets is now taking on the remit of Link, who was appointed to his most recent role in March 2020, working on local versions of formats such as The Voice and Masked Singer.

Andreas Wiele, chairman at ProSiebenSat.1, described yesterday’s board “reorganisation” as the “logical consequence of the focus on the entertainment business” and was “in line with the group-wide transformation program to optimise structures and costs.”

The changes at ProSiebenSat.1 are also being closely tracked following the death of Silvio Berlusconi, whose family controls MediaForEurope, a major shareholder in the German group and an advocate for pan-European consolidation.

There have also been other manoeuvrings among shareholders, with Renáta Kellnerová, the widow of deceased Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, becoming ProSiebenSat.1’s second largest shareholder in February after acquiring a 9.1% stake, with the option to acquire a further 0.9%.

Kellnerová’s PPF Group, founded by Kellner, owns CEE broadcaster CME and a number of other media assets.

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