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RTL returns to first-half profit on TV ad rebound

The biggest commercial broadcaster in Europe, RTL Group, announced on Wednesday a return to profit in the first half of the year thanks to a better-than-expected rebound in television advertising.

RTL, part of German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, expressed optimism about its outlook for 2010, with chief executive Gerhard Zeiler saying the Luxembourg-based group “will achieve significantly better full-year results.”

But, he cautioned, “visibility for the important fourth quarter remains very low.”

The makers of the X Factor and the Got Talent TV show franchise posted a net profit of 257 million euros (325 million dollars) in the first six months of the year compared to a loss of 105 million euros the previous year.

RTL also posted earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) of 537 million euros, a 46.3 percent bounce from the same period last year, which the company said was its “best half-year result ever.”

“The stronger than expected rebound seen in the Western European TV advertising markets is the result of the overall economic recovery,” Zeiler said in a statement.

“But it also demonstrates the strength of television, as many advertisers have re-discovered its unique value for building brands and reaching mass audiences,” Zeiler said.

RTL suffered a loss in the first half of last year after the global economic crisis dented advertising revenue.

Last month, RTL announced the sale of its British broadcaster Five to the Northern & Shell company, which is owned by British publisher Richard Desmond, for 125 million euros.

RTL Group lists interests in 43 television channels and 31 radio stations in 10 countries, while its content production arm, FremantleMedia, is one of the largest international producers outside the United States.