Chargeurs eyes stake in Canal Satellite

France’s giant Chargeurs group, one of the main partners in satellite web BSkyB, is negotiating to take a 20% stake in Canal Satellite — the Canal Plus subsidiary that manages the 10-channel “bouquet” beamed direct-to-home in France from the Telecom 2A bird.

Chargeurs management confirmed last week that “negotiations are advanced but not yet concluded.”

Canal Plus has always said it is looking for partners in the sat operation.

Canal Satellite is designed to bring a package of channels, which are available on cable, to homes in France that are never likely to be cabled. Since its November launch, the service has attracted 15,000 subscribers. Canal Plus president Andre Rousselet has said he hopes for 800,000 subscribers within five years.

Canal Satellite offers seven thematic services in Secam (Canal J, Canal Jimmy , Planete, Cine-Cinemas, Cine-Cinefil, MCM/Euromusique and TV Sport) and three webs (Cine-Cinemas, Canal Plus and France 2) broadcast in D2Mac.

The move by Chargeurs and Canal Plus toward closer cooperation fuels speculation that the major Euro players are gradually teaming up in preparations for the launch of a future pay-per-view market.

Chargeurs has a 17.5% stake in BSkyB, which has already said it plans to launch PPV operations built around a film service and its exclusive contract to broadcast live English soccer. BSkyB has as its main shareholder Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Chargeurs has had a PPV feasibility study on its desks for several months.

Last October, Canal Plus and Murdoch announced an agreement to work together to develop new television services throughout Europe.

Although few details were released, the deal is known to cover studies of satellite transmission, digital compression and program encryption. The move was widely seen as a step toward working together with an eye on the PPV market.

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