The success of Big Brother in so many countries across the globe
has put the Dutch TV production company Endemol on the map. This is part
of a wider trend that has seen a transition in Dutch media from being
locally rooted and strictly regulated by the government to being a
consumer-oriented industry with an international outlook.
In 2001, this transition has been embodied by the $1.25 billion
sale of VNU's consumer magazines division to the Finnish publishing
house Sanoma. Certain analysts have described this deal as the final
stage of a process that has transformed the media market in the
Netherlands. Once it was a business sector that was judged on its
cultural and societal role, whereas now it is a free-market
entertainment and money-making machine that is gaining international
Big publishing houses, such as VNU and Elsevier, which chose to take an
international expansionist approach about a decade ago, seem to have
gone one step further. These days they are scrutinised for ignoring
their domestic audiences, preferring to do big business in the US and
larger European markets, such as the UK and France.
The Telegraaf holding company, the owner of the country's biggest
national daily, De Telegraaf, with a circulation of 808,000, also
aspires to become an international player, but so far it owns only a
limited portfolio of foreign assets.
The Dutch newspaper market has stabilised after years of
It is dominated by three big players who each have a market share of
about 30 per cent and which, as a combined force, can set the standards
in terms of advertising fees.
"Their power is so huge that they maintain high fees in the face of
falling circulations," Hidde Zwaagstra, a partner and the exposure
director of Media Exposure in Amsterdam, says. "This market structure
makes the Dutch newspaper market one of the most expensive in
The Telegraaf Holding Company, PCM Holding (which owns five out of six
national dailies) and Wegener Tijl ODC, a publishing house specialising
in local and regional newspapers, all seem to adhere to a mutually
agreed tariff structure, which stops short of breaking the national or
European anti-cartel regulations, according to experts in the media
Their selling power has been challenged only slightly by the appearance
of the free daily Metro, published by the Swedish company Modern Times
Group, and the Telegraaf-owned Spits, which have made only tiny dents in
the copy sales of the national dailies.
Newspaper owners have been suffering reduced revenues from advertising
this year because of the economic slowdown, but they have left their
tariffs unchanged. Meanwhile, Dutch magazines adhere to average European
prices, but the sale of the VNU consumer magazines may give advertisers
an advantage in negotiations, especially if the new owner allows the
former VNU division to dissolve by selling titles.
Dutch TV is comparatively cheap by European standards. "It has, however,
become a very fragmented market due to the establishment of almost a
dozen new networks over the past decade," Zwaagstra says. "There are so
many TV stations that it is difficult to plan a good advertising
The three public networks have maintained a remarkably strong position,
with a combined market share of about 35 per cent, despite the fact that
they are allowed to broadcast only half as many commercials as their
commercial counterpart, HMG, which enjoys a market share of 22 per cent
and boasted the most talked-about show of the year on its schedules: Big
Big Diet features a number of overweight people who compete to lose as
much weight as they can. The winner is rewarded with as much money as
the kilograms in weight that he or she loses. Big Diet's production
company, Endemol, expects to export the format in a similar way to Big
Overall ad spending in the Netherlands has significantly diminished so
far in 2001. Advertisers spent $1.3 billion in the first half of
the year, down from $1.4 billion in 2000, a 3.9 percent decrease.
KPN Telecom accounted for the steepest reduction in ad spending - the
telecommunications company reduced its ad budget from $32 million
to $12 million in the first quarter of the year, according to the
Dutch advertising monitoring office BBC De Media.
Telecoms and dotcoms were the sectors that slashed their budgets the
most. KPN's adspend cuts came at a time when the former state-owned
company had become entangled in a worse-than-average financial situation
for a multinational investing in new media and technology.
Another Netherlands-based international media and telecoms company, UPC,
is also suffering from the unexpected setbacks in exploiting new-media
So the emphasis has shifted in the Dutch media market over the past year
from Amsterdam housing many fledgling dotcoms to an enhanced enthusiasm
for international business. So don't be surprised to see Big Diet coming
to a screen near you in 2002.
ARJAN POMPER - DEPUTY MD, UNIVERSAL McCANN
What is the brand with the most influence in your country?
What has been the most talked-about campaign this year?
KRO - a Catholic TV and radio station that used the Virgin Mary with
Jesus in her arms in a campaign to recruit new members
What's been the biggest surprise hit on TV this year?
Big Diet (below)
What's the latest must-read marketing book?
Who are the best media sales team in the country?
Hillenaar Outdoor (now a Clear Channel company)
Which media personality gets the most column inches?
The media agency Ries Meijer and the sales house Nico van Zetten get the
most attention in our industry press
Who is the most feared person in the industry?
There really isn't anyone who is feared in the Netherlands
What's the biggest media party of the year?
Media Werkgroep Congres
Where's the best place to meet clients?
Het Jagershuis - Ouderkerk aan de Amstel
What is the biggest single issue facing Europe's media industry?
The development of "powerhouses". The concentration of negotiation power
at a European level. I'm afraid that the result will be quantity over