Last week the media and entertainment group, the Swiss Ringier presented its results and its policy to a French public of journalists and media executives. It was amazing to watch the ambitious strategy of a group which has spread in eastern Europe, Viet Nam and Africa and is building up a powerful digital branch.
A few weeks ago Schibsted, the Norwegian media group delivered its own accounts. There again the owner of the very successful Leboncoin.fr in France is moving out of Scandinavia, in South America, Spain, France and is a world pioneer in digital ads.
So two small countries, Switzerland and Norwy have produced two world champions of the media in the new digital age. Normally, France with its 65 millions people and a long tradition of success in the publishing industries, should be a European leader. Unfortunately, it is not the case. Lagardere group is selling all its assets in the media and will probably vanish from the scene within the next ten years. Some wealthy businessmen have bought into the media without any long term strategy. Bouygues's TF1 has never gone far into an international diversification. Bernard Arnaud and Serge Dassault are happy with les Echos and le Figaro. Xavier Niel seems interested by the growth of group Le Monde and could keep buying into Radio and Internet but he is far from reaching a decisive European position.
The only hope of a French breakthrough in the media and digital world lies with Vivendi, the successful owner of Canal Plus. However, the future of Canal is unclear and nobody knows what Vincent Bolloré, the new boss of Vivendi intends to do, a sharp contrast with the clear cut vision of Ringier and Schibsted.
As for now, the two dominant groups in France are German. Bertelsmann manages M6, RTL and Prisma media, Springer has bought the most successful French websites, Aufeminin and Seloger.
What could be done? We shall discuss that point in a later blog.