Canal Plus profit rises as revs dip

Cabler hopes quality original p'gramming will up revs

PARIS — Gallic paybox Canal Plus reported a 3.26% drop in revenues for the first half of 2003 compared with the year-earlier period, but overall profit rose 41%.

Profit rose to E15.6 million ($18 million) from $12.9 million. Revs, however, dropped to $859.1 million from $887.5 million.

Canal Plus Group, a unit of Vivendi Universal, said the drop in revenue was directly linked to a 2.6% decline in subscribers. Group said the decline to 4,691,629 subs from 4,818,740 at the half-year of 2002, conformed to its previously announced outlook for the paybox. However, while previous reports had the drop at around 120,000, the half-year sub loss has already reached 127,111.

The loss in subscribers follows an overall industry trend, but for Canal Plus the drop is also linked to the growth of rival pay platform TPS.

The 41% rise in profit was due mainly to lower operating costs, which have been driven down during the restructuring of the Canal Plus Group after the financial woes of parent Vivendi. An overhaul of management as well as cost-cutting and a spate of pinkslips have helped the group to report a profit for the first time in years.

As for the paybox, Canal Plus is hoping that its aim of providing more quality original programming HBO style will help reverse its fortunes.

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