PARIS — Pierre Lescure, chairman of the giant French pay television group Canal Plus, has been named Mipcom 1998’s Personality of the Year.
Since it was launched in 1989, the award has honored key figures in the television industry, including Lescure’s predecessor at Canal Plus, Andre Rousselet, Ted Turner, Sumner Redstone and last year’s nominee, John S. Hendricks.
Commenting on this year’s choice, Reed Midem Organization chairman Xavier Roy noted, “as an exceptional visionary and a talented strategist, Pierre Lescure has propelled France’s No.1 pay-channel among the world’s largest media players in just a few years. He has become Europe’s foremost executive in the area of pay and digital TV.”
Lescure took over the chairmanship of Canal Plus in 1994. With the company already established as a huge pay television success in France, the former journalist has spent much of the past four years developing the international ambitions of Canal Plus. The group currently has subsids in 13 European countries as well as in Africa.
Need turn around
The Mipcom nod comes at a time when the jury is still out on how quickly Canal Plus can turn around its annual results, which have been hit by the need to invest heavily in digital startup operations as well as the acquisition and restructuring of NetHold.
A one-off payment from the Kirch group for Canal Plus’ stake in German paybox Premiere provided record profits in 1997, but losses are expected to be in the region of $100 million for 1998, with serious black ink not tipped to flow again until 2000.
However, following a recent shareholder shuffle involving Canal Plus’ main backer Havas, and its parent Vivendi, Lescure’s position seems stronger than ever. Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier has made Canal Plus the television spearhead of his three-pronged attack on telephony, publishing and the audiovisual world.