Canal Plus yearning to merge with TPS

Meheut invites teammate

PARIS — Two days after ponying up a record $793 million a year for exclusive rights to French first-division soccer for 2005-08, Canal Plus’ topper Bertrand Meheut declared his desire for a merger with rival satcaster TPS.

Calling the existence of two pay TV platforms in France economically untenable, Meheut added: “Takeover or merger, we are open to all possible solutions.”

“For now, we are alone at the table, but I think that TPS will come around to my point of view,” Meheut told Gallic daily Le Figaro.

Canal Plus’ sweep of soccer rights has left TPS in a fragile position. Canal Plus, which has 4.9 million subscribers, counts on winning 300,000 more due to soccer. TPS has 1.2 million subs.

The French pay TV market is the only one in Europe with two competing platforms, forcing up programming and marketing costs for both.

A merger or takeover could pose financial and legal hurdles for the Vivendi Universal subsid.

TPS shareholders want an estimated $2.6 billion for the satcaster. However, the European Commission would have to be convinced of the logic for consumers behind such a move.

TPS declined to comment.

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