French feevee giant gets thumbs up

Canal Plus renews monopoly in the pay TV biz

Canal Plus parent Vivendi Universal and TPS co-shareholders TF1 and M6 have inked to merge their rival payboxes into a single multibillion-dollar pay TV giant.

The trio revealed their intentions in mid-December; Monday’s official announcement of the deal, signed Jan. 6, comes after approval from Gaul’s labor committees.

As previously revealed, Vivendi U will control the new entity with a stake of up to 85%. It will have 7 million-9 million subscribers, on a par with U.K. satcaster BSkyB.

Deal now must pass the French competition authorities and the Conseil Superieur de l’audiovisuel, France’s broadcasting authority. Merger is unlikely to meet insurmountable obstacles, though the competition authorities and the CSA are expected to lay down certain conditions.

Canal Plus will again have a monopoly in the pay TV biz that some, including film industry lobby groups, may seek to curb. That monopoly is likely to be short-lived as other companies, especially cash-rich telcos, firm up plans for pay TV entities.

Monday’s statement reiterated that Vivendi’s stake could change depending on the outcome of talks with a fourth pay TV partner, Lagardere.

Latter owns a 34% stake in Canal Plus’ digital platform CanalSat, which has 3 million subs, some of whom also subscribe to Canal Plus’ flagship pay TV channel.

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