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Canal Plus nearing deal for news net

PARIS — Gallic paybox Canal Plus is reported to be in tight negotiations with the Amaury press group for an all-news cable channel to be broadcast on its digital offering Canal Sat, according to Wednesday’s edition of French financial daily La Tribune.

Despite prexy Pierre Lescure’s announcement in Le Monde last month of his intention to finalize plans for an all-news station by the end of the summer with a probable start date set for spring 1998, Canal Plus today had no comment, terming the La Tribune story “a leak.”

Amaury, which publishes local papers l’Equipe and Le Parisien, also had no comment.

LCI on the edge

Should a deal take place, however, the channel is likely to replace LCI, a news-only off-shoot of TF1, which is currently part of the Canal Sat digital consortium as well as competing platform TPS. Thus Canal Plus will effectively be launching yet another arrow at the heart of the TF1 group in what has become a battle of the Hatfields and McCoys, with both groups recently in and out of court disputes.

Project head Christian Dutoit, who appears to be the leading candidate to run the news net, has called the 8 p.m. news programs that run on local terrestrial webs “boring and too long,” and sees a need to re-engage viewers with news that is closer to home.

In this vein, an alliance with Amaury is seen as a savvy move. Circulation of Amaury’s flagship papers has shown continuous growth.

According to La Tribune, the prospective budget for the net is 150 million Francs ($24.2 million). And, with less than 100 journalists, these figures would be inferior to those of LCI. But since Dutoit himself helped found LCI in 1993 — and given the expertise of the two formidable partners — the difference does not look to be a hindrance.

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