Canal + wins with auds

Pay TV group up to 4.6 mil subs, but loses soccer rights

PARIS — France’s Canal Plus may have lost a bitter battle for French soccer rights earlier this year, but it won the war for subscribers.

Despite losing exclusive rights to broadcast first division matches, the pay TV group added more subscribers in 1999 than it has in any year since 1990, according to the French daily La Tribune. It is expected to start 2000 with 4.6 million subscribers.

Rival digital consortium Television Par Satellite, to whom Canal Plus has had to concede exclusivity for some of the matches, has experienced slower subscription growth than expected, La Tribune said.

In the four months following its victory over Canal Plus, TPS pulled in 90,000 new subscribers (as did Canal Plus) compared with 115,000 for the same period in 1998. TPS has 830,000 subscribers.

Canal Plus benefited from a publicity campaign featuring star French soccer player Zinedine Zidane; its offer of a wider selection of soccer , including European Championship matches; and the perception that it has the more expert coverage.

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