Disney sells stake in Super RTL to focus on Disney Plus

(Image courtesy RTL Media, Graphic by The Desk)

The Walt Disney Company has reached a deal with German entertainment giant RTL Media to sell its stake in children’s channel Super RTL.

The deal will involve RTL Media acquiring complete control of the free-to-air channel, which broadcasts a family-friendly slate of programs to audiences in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Financial terms of the deal, if any, were not disclosed.

Super RTL started in 1999 as a joint venture between Disney’s European subsidiary and RTL Media, which was known as RTL Deutschland at the time.

In recent years, Disney has sought to build its own brand in Europe, incuding in Germany where it re-launched a German-language variant of its Disney Channel seven years ago. Disney subsequently moved its children’s programming from Super RTL to the Disney Channel while maintaining a financial stake in the network.

There were good financial reasons for Disney keeping its position with Super RTL over the last seven years: The channel is the biggest, most-profitable commercial network aimed at children in Europe, eclipsing country-specific variants of Cartoon Network and others.

Over the last year, Disney has focused less on its linear TV offerings and more on global dominance with its Disney Plus streaming service, making it less-reliant on Super RTL and other channels.

At the same time, RTL Media has forged partnerships with some of Disney’s main programming rivals, including ViacomCBS, Comcast’s DreamWorks and AT&T’s WarnerMedia, in order to beef up its content offerings on Super RTL and across its other German-language channels.

RTL Media’s deal to acquire Disney’s take in Super RTL is still subject to regulatory approval, but it’s expected to sail through the process and the deal should close by the end of the year. When it does, Super RTL will join a suite of other German-language channels programmed by RTL Media, including its flagship RTL, RTL II, RTL Plus, Vox and the cable news channel N-TV.

And as Disney focuses on building out its Disney Plus service in Europe, RTL will likewise be exploring more content partnerships for its own streaming service called TV Now. Acquiring all of Super RTL will make it easier for RTL Media to offer programs licensed for Super RTL to their own streaming platform.