Limits put on Canal Plus probe

Competition regulator draws line at 2006

BRUSSELS — Gaul’s competition regulator has narrowed down its investigation of exclusivity deals at Canal Plus to those concluded after 2006.

Decision, announced Tuesday, still leaves the Competition Authority plenty to chew on, including deals with Universal, Disney, Fox, Turner and MTV, amongst others.

The authority has drawn a line in 2006 because of government approval that year for Vivendi Universal, the parent of Canal Plus, to take over the TPS satellite platform.

When it greenlit the merger of TPS and Vivendi’s CanalSat, the government also endorsed exclusivity arrangements between Canal Plus and partners TF1, M6 and Lagardere.

The Competition Authority concedes that these arrangements are now beyond challenge. But it plans to continue investigating distribution agreements signed after the merger and so not covered by government endorsement.

These agreements enlarge the distribution exclusivity of thematic channels belonging to TF1, M6 and Lagardere to the optical fiber network and catch-up TV.

They also give Canal Plus first look rights on every new broadcast medium planned by TF1 and Lagardere, and on every new service planned by TF1.

On top of that, the authority wants to look at exclusivity clauses concluded by Canal Plus with independent channel producers. These cover around 30 companies, it says, including Universal, Disney, Fox, Turner and MTV.

There is also an outstanding complaint from competitor France Telecom about exclusivities involving channels owned and produced by Canal Plus.

“All these exclusivities will have to be scrutinized in order to determine if a cumulative foreclosure effect is being imposed on the market,” the authority said.

Meanwhile, the authority promises to pass judgment in the first half of 2011 on whether Canal Plus has respected competition undertakings made during the CanalSat-TPS merger.

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