Canadian private webs suffer massive losses

Quebec’s private tv nets are in trouble. Last month, Tele-Metropole Inc. reported a $C10.4 million ($8.94 million) loss for its fiscal 1990 year, and Television Quatre Saisons reported a staggering $C27.7 million ($23.82 million) deficit for the period.

Tele-Metropole’s mega parent company, Le Groupe Videotron, can absorb the loss, but Television Quatre Saisons is threatening to sink its CFCF Inc. parent.

CFCF was $C15.9 million ($13.67 million) in the red itself, per its annual report, and it has until Feb. 28 to come up with part of the $C123 million ($105.78 million) it owes the Toronto Dominion Bank, according to CFCF prez and CEO Jean Pouliot.

Pouliot refused to say how much capital would appease the bank.

Selling Television Quatre Saisons (a difficult task during a recession, which has hit Canadian communications companies hard), or shutting it down and selling the equipment would be a “last resort,” per Pouliot. “All options are being considered,” he told reporters, including sale of English-lingo CFCF 12.

Cash-rich Power Corp. says it has talked with Pouliot (which he confirmed) but that it “has not received an offer for sale from CFCF.” (Power tried to buy Tele-Metropole in 1986, but its $C98 million bid was refused federal regulator CRTC, and Videotron won out.) Pouliot said his talks with Power are “strictly confidential.”

In a speech to shareholders, Pouliot said the Quebec tv industry is in trouble because “we are victims of our own success.” Quebeckers are fiercely loyal tv viewers (averaging 25 hours per week), but there’s a limit to how many channels 6 million viewers can watch.

In the past few years, this tiny market has been satiated with new channels (including TQS in 1985 and five specialty cable channels in 1987), stung by the commercialization of public broadcasters and ravaged by an adrate war.

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