Territory report: Canada

Canucks concocting more media marriages

MONTREAL — Mirroring changes in the TV biz south of the Canadian border, the Canuck broadcast milieu has been radically reshaped by the convergence trend.

Canadian media execs share their U.S. peers’ view that bigger is better and broadcast companies in the Great White North have been busy trying to consolidate assets in order to stay competitive globally.

Last year was the big one for convergence in Canada.

In a C$2.3 billion ($1.5 billion) deal early in 2000, telecom giant BCE took over national network CTV and the CTV-owned specialty channels the Sports Network, Le Reseau des Sports and Discovery Channel (Canada).

Later, the newly created Bell Globemedia, a BCE subsidiary, added national newspaper the Globe and Mail to the mix.

Also last year, Winnipeg-based CanWest Global, one of the country’s leading broadcast companies, acquired the majority of Southam’s Canuck newspapers, including 50% of the National Post, in a $2.3 billion deal. Last month, CanWest Global picked up the remaining 50% of the National Post from former owner Hollinger.

In addition, Quebecor, one of the country’s top newspaper publishers, acquired Montreal-based cable operator Videotron in 2000 in a deal that also gave it control of TVA, Canada’s top-rated French-language TV network.

Most observers believe that the rash of takeovers in the media biz here is far from over.

Other potential targets include Craig Broadcast Systems of Calgary, Chum TV, Alliance Atlantis and Astral Media.

One company that has benefited from the trend toward convergence is film and TV producer Fireworks Entertainment, which was acquired in 1998 by CanWest Global.

“It’s been good because it’s strengthened us and gave us the ability to go out to the international market with better product and be more competitive,” says Fireworks prexy Adam Haight. “And as things get bigger, there are gaps for the independents to fill.”

The big plus for the converged companies is cross-promotion, says Norm Bolen, senior VP of programming at Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting.

“These large converged companies have opportunities to better market their product than they have had in the past,” he says. “Over time, I think it’s clear you’ll see more and more concentration of ownership in the industry in order to take advantage of these opportunities.”

TV homes:11.4 million

Cable homes:8.3 million

Satellite homes:1.4 million

Local programming:60%

Top show:“ER” on CTV (2.5 million viewers)

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