TW in French venture

Time Warner is about to take a major step into the French cable market, teaming up with U.S. cabler Comcast to form a joint cable operating company, Cite Reseau.

The new operation will be launched next month and aims to provide cable service to medium-sized towns throughout France.

Estimates are that there are around 140 suitable towns yet to be cabled, repping some 5 million households.

“We hope to get a 10% subscription rate from those 5 million homes,” Cite Reseau topper Vincent Bataille told Daily Variety. TW is also looking to bring a French bank into the new company.

According to Vincent Bataille, Cite Reseau will offer monthly subscriptions at under 100 francs ($ 17), compared to the current average of nearer $ 22. “We will be carrying the same bouquet of channels as other cablers, but we hope our aggressive pricing will attract subscribers,” he said.

With some 1.3 million cable subscribers in France, the market remains chronically underdeveloped. Major cable operators Lyonnaise des Eaux, Caisse des Depots, Generale des Eaux and France Telecom have poured billions of francs into cable, so far to little effect.

Caisse des Depots’ cable business is now up for sale. “If Time Warner gets a proposition to buy from Caisse des Depots, I imagine it would be studied very carefully,” said Bataille.

Time Warner is also part of a consortium bidding to become the cable operator in the Rhone region of France. The Rhone administration is looking for companies to install fiberoptic cable in its domain. France Telecom is keen to get the contract; so is the consortium of Time Warner, Comcast, Swiss cabler Rediffusion , and 2RBI, which manages cable in the former Winter Olympics town of Albertville, France.

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