DirectGroup Bertelsmann and RTL Group to develop broadband activities together

DirectGroup concentrates its activities on media e-commerce for cable and satellite / RTL Group enhances interactive TV activities.

Gütersloh / Luxembourg / Cologne, 02.02.2001 - DirectGroup Bertelsmann's subsidiary Bertelsmann eCommerce Group (BeCG) and RTL Group have decided to bundle their interactive television and broadband activities. A strategic agreement concluded between the two companies foresees close collaboration and parallel development of interactive television and e-commerce activities. To this end, the legal entity Bertelsmann Broadband Group, up to now part of BeCG, will be taken over by RTL Group for Euro 12.8 million. It will be integrated into RTL NEWMEDIA, a subsidiary of RTL Television in Cologne. Out of the e-commerce activities of Broadband Group, BeCG founds the new unit BeBroadband. It will develop the e-commerce activities in the broadband area and, as a preferred partner, gain access to the interactive TV platform and customers of RTL Group in Europe.

This agreement will strengthen the efforts of RTL Group in the area of interactive content and TV. In Germany, these activities are the operational responsibility of RTL NEWMEDIA, which disposes of a broad range of programs and services for converging platforms and enjoys a market leading position in interactive services.

The e-commerce team of Broadband Group will be taken over by BeCG and integrated into the newly-established BeBroadband. BeBroadband, based in Hamburg and New York, is devoted to the international development of e-Commerce services and platforms over broadband distribution channels such as cable and satellite.

„With this re-organisation and collaboration, we are giving an impetus to the joint development of interactive TV and the next generation of media-driven e-commerce", explains Klaus Eierhoff, Head of DirectGroup Bertelsmann and Member of the Board of Bertelsmann AG. „By dividing our tasks, we can optimise our core competences in our media-related direct-to-customer business. We can also focus on our strategic aim and expand our multi-channel strategy to include the promising interactive and broadband television sectors. Werner Lauff's team have successfully developed a stand-alone media platform for the promising broadband market and built the foundations from which to launch marketable products. The aim of this new partnership is to develop these products by combining attractive television content, interactive services and electronic retailing."

„Through this new arrangement, RTL Group and Bertelsmann intend to gain a clear competitive advantage over other providers of interactive broadband programming in Europe", explains Ewald Walgenbach, Chief Operating Officer of RTL Group. „In Germany, RTL Television, headed by Gerhard Zeiler, is already market leader in the area of interactive media solutions, and our entertainment portal RTL World is by far the most successful German general interest website. Backed by our strong broadcasting, production and new media competence, we are further strengthening our activities in interactive television and content. At the same time, we are building a formidable partnership for media e-commerce. This will allow us to offer cable network operators, and therefore cable customers, very attractive and innovative media content via the information highways of tomorrow."

"With this partnership, BeCG secures access to another promising distribution channel and custumer base for its digital media products. Alongside our engagement in the mobile-commerce area, broadband activities will be another important pillar of our business," says Andreas Schmidt, President and Chief Executive Officer of BeCG.

Bertelsmann Broadband Group was established as a pilot project in April 1999 by the multimedia division of Bertelsmann AG. At present, its service is being tested in 10 German cities.

RTL NEWMEDIA, headed by Thomas Hesse and Hans Mahr, bundles all the interactive and digital activities of German TV market-leader RTL Television, and furthers the aim of extending the RTL brand's number one status to new media. RTL NEWMEDIA is 100% owned by RTL Television.

The Bertelsmann eCommerce Group (BeCG) bundles the worldwide e-Commerce activities of Bertelsmann's subsidiaries, shareholdings and partnerships such as BOL, CDNow, and Napster. The aim of BeCG is to be the leading global eCommunity- and e-Commerce network for all technologies and platforms by offering customers unique access to a wide variety of media content.

DirectGroup Bertelsmann has been directing the end customer businesses of Bertelsmann AG since July 2000. With a total of about 50 million customers and members, the DirectGroup comprises the book and music clubs worldwide as well as the global e-commerce businesses. Bertelsmann is the global market leader with respect to media clubs and, with BOL, CDNow and, is the number two worldwide with respect to media e-commerce activities. The DirectGroup, next to Content and Services, is one of the three supporting pillars of Bertelsmann's overall strategy. Dr. Klaus Eierhoff heads the Group whose total revenues for fiscal year 2000/01 are projected to be approximately DM 7 billion. With 13,000 employees the division is active in 24 countries and contributes a great deal to the internationality of the Bertelsmann Group.

RTL Group is the leading pan-European broadcasting and production company with interests in 23 television channels and 17 radio stations in 11 European countries. Producing over 200 programs in 35 countries, it is one of the global leaders in content production. With over 80 branded websites and more than 3 million unique visitors in November 2000, it is also one of Europe's leading online players.


For further inquiries:

DirectGroup Bertelsmann
Gerd Koslowski
Tel: +49 5241 80 41555

RTL Group
Markus Payer
Head of Media Relations
Tel: (+352 42142-5020)
RTL Television
Ingrid M. Haas
Tel: +49 221 456 4300
Bertelsmann eCommerce Group
Frank Sarfeld
Tel: +49 40 8222 62-420
Fax: +1 646 752 3170
Simone Danne
Tel: + 49 221 780-1500