Trio eyes purchase of Pathe niche webs

Canal Plus, TF1, AB line up to buy channels

PARIS — Paybox Canal Plus, dominant terrestrial broadcaster TF1 and thematic programmer AB Groupe are vying to snap up French major Pathe’s webs TMC, Comedie, Voyage and Cuisine TV.

Pathe and Canal Plus confirmed that “discussions were under way” but declined to provide details. Canal Plus, which owns 34% of Comedie, is thought to be lead bidder for the channel: AB Groupe and TF1 are joint bidders for TMC. AB and TF1 are also said to be interested in Voyage and Cuisine TV.

TMC is the most attractive of Pathe’s webs, with revenue of E19 million ($22.7 million) in 2003. Along with its placement on Canal Satellite, the web is available in 5.5 million French homes.

The asking price for TMC is $59.8 million for Pathe’s 80% stake, according to French daily La Tribune. Considered to be on the high end of the web’s worth, the pricetag could slow negotiations between Pathe and potential buyers.

With the exception of Voyage, the channels have been selected for France’s future terrestrial digital television platform, which would give the potential buyers an added bonus.

TF1 and AB Groupe could not be reached for comment.