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Newsmaker: Michel Denisot

Chief operating officer of French premium channel Canal Plus

PARIS — In the shake-up at Canal Plus after the creation of Vivendi Universal, execs quickly pinpointed a new helmer for its flagship French channel.

Michel Denisot was duly catapulted into the hot seat as chief operating officer. A senior exec who has been with the pay channel since it was created in 1984, Denisot is one of French TV’s well-known faces and was a natural choice for the job.

Before taking on his new responsibilities, he was Canal Plus’ exec VP, sports. Before that, he was president of the Canal Plus-owned Paris-Saint Germain soccer club during its most successful period.

But Denisot is also a movies man, and his achievements in that area include the creation of Canal Plus’ Cannes Intl. Film Festival fest program “Le Journal du Festival,” which he hosted and produced.

Denisot’s brief is to inject new life into the pay TV channel, whose 4.5 million subscriber base is approaching a plateau at a time when sports and movie rights are soaring in price.

In a further blow, Canal Plus’ once phenomenally successful unencrypted flagship show “Nulle Part Ailleurs,” on the air for more than a decade, has recently fallen out of favor with French viewers. Observers expect Denisot to ditch the show and give the schedule a new look, with the help of recently appointed head of programming Alexandre Drubigny.

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