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Canal Plus extends Fox film deal to 2012

Gives rights to first-, second-window, PPV

PARIS — The Canal Plus Group has inked a five-year, multimillion-dollar output deal with 20th Century Fox, extending the two companies’ partnership to 2012.

Deal gives Canal Plus exclusive first- and second-window and broadcasting and pay-per-view rights to Fox’s output of some 20 movies a year.

“It’s an important deal with an historical partner,” said Rodolphe Belmer, Canal Plus Group exec VP in charge of the premium channel, adding: “Cinema is still at the heart of our programming strategy.”

Belmer would not put a figure on the Fox deal, saying it was comparable with previous pacts except that the studio plans to produce more movies — therefore the paybox will spend more.

Last year the Gallic TV biz was agog over rival TPS spending north of $30 million yearly to nab Warner Bros from Canal Plus. But the sharp upward shift is believed not to have continued on recent deals.

Canal Plus, France’s pay TV leader, has output deals with Sony Columbia, DreamWorks, Miramax, New Line and Spyglass, plus exclusive deals on recent animated films by Disney and Pixar.

Having been forced by European regulators to share Universal’s output with rival Gallic pay TV operator TPS — a condition of the short-lived Vivendi Universal merger — Canal Plus also recently got back the rights to all of U’s movies.

Other studios have pacts with TPS, which has been renewing deals way ahead of deadlines — an indication of how keen competition continues to be in the French market.

Canal Plus’ premium channel airs 320 new films a year, including some 110 Gallic films, more than half French cinema’s output.

The web has recently been overhauled and has started to add subscribers, stemming a two-year downturn. It has some 4.5 million subs, while TPS has 1.2 million.

France’s competing pay TV companies are also rivals for sports rights. An ongoing auction for French first division soccer, to be decided later this month, is expected to rake in E500 million ($664 million) per year.

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