Dirk Gerkens, CEO of TV2 (which was recently acquired by former Hollywood film producer Andy Vajna), served as RTL Klub’s chief executive for fourteen years. In a recently published interview, the former RTL Klub executive says RTL’s decision to terminate his contract made him decide to go over to TV2 and transform the company into one that takes over RTL Klub’s spot as the top privately-owned television broadcaster in Hungary.
Gerkens told Index.hu his decision to join TV2 was motivated by the professional challenge, although “emotions” caused by his sudden departure from RTL may have also played some role.
“I’m a businessman, I look at the numbers,” Gerkens told Index. He says the only reason he took the job at Andy Vajna’s recently acquired TV2 is because he feels he can turn TV2 around and make it a market leader in the country.
As for his plans, Gerkens wants the company to buy up other television stations and enhance programming in the stations it already owns.
“Once that’s done, all we have to do is bring viewers over from RTL,” he says. “I know precisely where those viewers are.”
Gerkens said he determined to take over RTL Klub’s position as the top television broadcast company in Hungary.
“This is such a small market that you have to be best. It’s no problem being second place in Germany, and in France the second place M6 makes just as much as the market leader TF1. In Hungary, you can’t make lots of money being in second place. To be in first place, we’ll need to draw advertising spending away from RTL over to TV2. If we look at the advertising spending as a proportion of market share, we see that in RTL’s case the model is simply unsustainable. I was always worried about this because it’s not normal that a company with a 30 percent market share gets 60 percent of the advertising market. This is not sustainable.”
Gerkens said the Hungarian government’s conflict with RTL Klub has nothing to do with the company’s management in Hungary, but was instead with the RTL Klub parent company in Luxembourg. He subtly blamed RTL executives Andreas Rudas and Róbert Kotroczó for being responsible for the anti-government news stories run during the advertising tax fiasco.
It was clear that RTL’s news stories during the tax fiasco were increasingly critical of the government. Index asked Gerkens whether TV2’s news broadcast will be independent amidst concerns that the television is owned by Andy Vajna (who serves as government commissioner for the film industry).
“Let me respond with a question: is personally attacking members of the governing party considered to be independent? I’m not sure that that would be the definition of independence. That’s anti-government reporting and it’s not equal to being independent,” Gerkens says.
It seems the ratings war between RTL Klub and TV2 is soon to be under way. Gerkens went so far as to encourage top employees at RTL Klub to go to work for TV2 because it “will once again be an attractive workplace in the Hungarian market. There are a number of good professionals at RTL who won’t rise any higher on the corporate ladder. Our TV channel would be an excellent alternative for them because we can offer them a better position, exciting work and more money.”