Activities in Poland irk French pay TV op

PARIS — Relations between French pay television operator Canal Plus and Home Box Office got even frostier Tuesday as Canal Plus filed a complaint against HBO in the Hungarian courts challenging HBO’s TV activities in neighboring Poland.

Canal Plus, which has a pay TV outlet in Poland that is in head-to-head competition with HBO Polska, claims the HBO team is engaged in unfair competition in the Polish market. HBO’s Polish paycable channel is uplinked from Hungary.

A Canal Plus statement said, “HBO has been broadcasting programs into Poland from Hungary without fulfilling any of the obligations — notably concerning production and distribution — that apply to all Polish and Hungarian broadcasters.”

Commitments miff Canal +

With Canal Plus Polska locked in a bitter struggle with HBO Polska, Canal Plus execs are miffed that they had to make significant commitments to Polish film production in order to get a license.

Execs from HBO Intl. declined to comment until they have further details of Canal Plus’ complaint.

Canal Plus has invested around $6 million in Polish pics in the past three years. It also has to abide by quotas for the production and broadcasting of Polish product. Canal Plus Polska was launched in March 1995 and currently has 240,000 subscribers. HBO Polska does not release sub figures but sources say it has approximately 100,000 subscribers.

The French claim that HBO is avoiding such commitments by uplinking from Hungary, adding that HBO Polska’s operating costs are considerably and unfairly lower than those of Canal Plus Polska.

Another U.S. rival

This is the second time that Canal Plus has gone to court to do battle with its U.S. rival.

In October, the Warsaw Tribunal received a complaint that HBO was failing to respect Polish audiovisual legislation and was engaged in unfair competition.

Canal Plus argued that HBO Polska was broadcasting “in total disregard” of Polish television rules that require broadcasters to have a license.

However, when HBO did apply for a license, in 1996, the Polish television regulatory body KRRIT didn’t react. Current Polish law indicates that a non-reply from the KRRIT is deemed to be an acceptance after two months.

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