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Paybox merger OK’d

Italy lets Telepiu-Stream wedding proceed

MILAN — Italy’s antitrust body announced Monday it would approve the merger between Telepiu, the money-losing Italian arm of France paybox Canal Plus, and News Corp.’s Italo digital platform Stream — though such a union is still far from certain.

Vivendi Universal chief Jean-Marie Messier recently said he planned to ditch the deal for financial reasons and that Viv U-owned Canal Plus “will not accept any new conditions to the merger.”

The Italian antitrust org Monday set several severe provisos to the deal in response to the growing chorus in Italy criticizing the creation of a single platform controlled by a non-Italian group.

Telepiu would, for example, be obliged to respect strict limits on the acquisition of soccer rights; contracts could have a maximum validity of two years.

Telepiu would be obliged to give the U.S. majors, which have exclusive output deals with it, the right to break the contract with a six-month notice and no penalty.

Telepiu would not be allowed to ink output deals for more than one year in duration and only for pay TV rights.

The two-page note issued Monday evening by the antitrust body includes other limits, all of them aimed at keeping the pay TV market relatively open and allowing the future entrance of rival operators.