Behind the TF1-M6 merger, there is the match between sovereignty and competition

Chronic. Should TF1 and M6 be authorized to marry? This is the question that agitates the audiovisual and advertising sectors. It is up to the Competition Authority, which examines the case, to decide. But, behind this merger, there is the match between sovereignty and competition.

Two logics clash: for the pro-marriage – including the French executive – it is vital to create French national champions, even European, to resist foreign giants, American or Chinese, especially in the digital sector: Google and Facebook for advertising, Netflix or Amazon on the films and series side… For the opponents, the most important thing is to ensure fair competition, which allows emulation between small and large companies, wherever they come from: this would be the better for consumers but also for our companies, capable of winning market share or public contracts abroad.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Why the TF1-M6 merger federates oppositions in the audiovisual sector

The logic of sovereignty has gained ground in Europe in recent years. A turning point was the refusal by the European Commission of the merger between the German and French railway giants, Siemens and Alstom, in 2019. At the time, Bruno Le Maire had criticized a “Political error” and one “Gift to China”. In the process, the Minister of the Economy published, with his German counterpart Peter Altmayer, a “Manifest” for a “Industrial policy”. A concept historically rather associated with France and regarded with suspicion in Germany as a form of statism, even socialism …

A “annuity” position

This inflection is embodied in particular in the “Important projects of common European interest” which allow member states to support business innovations in semiconductors, electric batteries, data hosting in the cloud, etc. In the same vein, Frenchman Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Industry and fervent defender of an industrial policy, instead imposed its views in the preliminary debates with its counterpart in competition Margrethe Vestager on the regulation on digital platforms Digital Markets Act, now jointly defended.

The pro-merger argument is well known: the two groups must influence the rights market

In the case of TF1 and M6, the pro-fusion argument is known: the two groups must weigh on the rights market, where the behemoths Disney, Netflix or Amazon confiscate the most beautiful works and talents. More broadly, isn’t the regulated universe of terrestrial and linear television set to explode in the long term, in favor of an open battle between content applications, on televisions and connected objects, mainly in replay? French channels would then fight head-on with the giants of targeted online advertising. TF1 and M6 ask the Competition Authority to broaden its analysis of the “Relevant market” to mix television advertising (of which they control 70%) and on line. For the Fnac-Darty merger, the authority had thus included online sales.

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