For the first time, the French Competition Authority handed down a decision pertaining to the industry constituted by monetization of “influence” and of “influencers” whose activities are created on the Internet, content-sharing platforms (such as YouTube or Twitch) and social networks (Instagram, Twitter e.g.).
Some of them have considerable audiences, measured by the number of subscribers to their “channels” or to their “accounts” on various sites or platforms. Influencers monetize their activities by various means: insertion of advertisements into the programmes they produce, sponsorship of their image programmes, product placements, participation in advertisements or in audiovisual programmes.
The merging parties were Webedia and Elephant. Webedia develops various services for supporting influencers (inter alia Cyprien, Squeezie, and Norman) and for helping them develop their audiences and their revenues. Elephant, the target, creates and produces audiovisual programmes for various media, in particular for television channels ; it also provides marketing and communications services.
The aim of the takeover was to be able to propose programmes related to “talents and influencers” to the various media (television channels, subscription video on demand services, and online video platforms).
The assessment of the merger led the Autorité to define a new market: the market of management for “talents and influencers”. This market encompasses services such as the management of the career and image of the “talents and influencers”, the provision of facilities for audiovisual production, the optimisation of the monetization of the videos posted on the content-sharing platforms.
It should be noted that various sub-markets segments could form the market of management services for “talents and influencers”. Indeed, every influencer has its specialisation: sport, gaming/video games, beauty and personal care products, etc.
The Autorité focused attention on the possible risk of elimination of the competitors of Webedia and Elephant on the market of management services proposed to “talents and influencers” and on the market of audiovisual programme rights. Such a risk could have occurred if Webedia and Elephant would have been able to establish contractual ties between the influencers managed by Webedia and the productions of Elephant in order to constitute unavoidable offers on those markets.
The decision showed that Webedia had a limited position on the market of management services for “talents and influencers”. Several groups (TF1 Group, M6 Group, and Canal Plus Group) own not only subsidiaries proposing services to influencers (Studio 71, Golden Network, and Studio Bagel), but also production or co-production companies (Newen, M6 Studio and M6 Films, and Studio Canal).
The absence of exclusivity clause between Webedia and the influencers was the other important element at the time of assessing the effects of the transaction at stake. Such an exclusivity clause could have led the influencers to produce content for television only via the services of Elephant.
The Autorité cleared the transaction without making it subject to any conditions.