‘Net ops cause a loss at Canal Plus

Revs up 16% to $3.3 billion

PARIS — French pay TV group Canal Plus has reported losses of 330 million euros ($330 million) for 1999, compared with a $28 million loss the prior year. Revenues for the year rose 16% to $3.3 billion.

Canal Plus, which has some 14 million subscribers across Europe, started telling the market to expect losses several months ago. The results were due in part to a $220 million provision linked to phasing out the current base of digital set-top decoders in order to speed up introduction of a box that will provide online access.

Boxing in revenue growth

The new devices will come on the market at the end of the year. In a statement, the company noted that the arrival of these boxes will “significantly increase revenue per subscriber.”

Excluding exceptional items and goodwill, the net loss would have amounted to $136 million.

Under the chairmanship of Pierre Lescure, Canal Plus has been looking to expand its European subscription base and is investing heavily in digital television.

Italian piece of pie

It holds 99% of Italian pay and digital service Telepiu. The Italian subsid saw revenues rise 39% to $507 million but sports rights and a major marketing campaign drove operating losses to $187 million, compared with $146 million in 1998. Canal Plus warned that Italy will post “a significant loss” in 2000.

Lescure is looking to position Canal Plus as Europe’s leading multiservice TV provider. Canal Plus is partnered with its main backer, Vivendi, in Internet startup Vivendi Net. Company, which regroups all of Vivendi’s and Canal Plus’ Web interests, aims to become the leading European Internet platform with a portal accessible from mobile phones, TV sets and PCs.