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Takeover delays tether major players

Canada

TORONTO — With the recent takeovers of two larger cablers, Alliance Atlantis Communications and Chum by CanWest Global/Goldman Sachs and CTV Globemedia, respectively, Canada’s presence at Mipcom looked in danger of becoming a two-horse race.

But then Konrad von Finckenstein, the tough-talking topper of Canada’s regulator, appointed in January, stepped in.

Instead of rubber-stamping the deals, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission told CTV it could keep Chum’s cable channels but forced it to sell its five terrestrial stations — which CTV quickly did, to Rogers Media.

More recently, the regulator pushed the takeover approval hearing for the AAC assets back from early September to mid-November.

So while Rogers has the potential to become a serious player down the road and the AAC assets promise to give CanWest’s specialty stable some significant girth, until the deals receive von Finckenstein’s blessing (if they do), Chum and AAC execs are taking a “business as usual” tack at Mipcom.

Roughly translated, that means don’t expect anything extravagant or daring from either.

For those players who have a bit more room to breathe, however, this promises to be a brisk market with one-hour dramas on the upswing, say industryites including CanWest’s Barb Williams and John Morayniss of Blueprint Entertainment.

The two have developed a business model in which Blueprint works with CanWest and a U.S. broadcaster to produce series that enjoy the benefits of being Canadian content, such as “The Best Years” (with the N) and “Love You to Death” (aka ” ‘Til Death Do Us Part,” with Court TV), but also have license fees from the States to help meet what Williams terms “the endless financing challenge.”

TOP 3

1. Canadian Idol 5 (CTV)

2. CSI: Miami (CTV)

3. Criminal Minds (CTV)

Timeline

2006

July 12: CTV Globemedia announces takeover of Chum.

2007

Jan. 11: CanWest Global and Goldman Sachs announce takeover of Alliance Atlantis Communications.

June 8: CRTC approves CTV takeover of Chum contingent upon selloff of five over-the-air channels.

June 10: Rogers Media buys Chum OTAs.

Aug. 29: CRTC delays CanWest/GS hearing from September to November; holds hearing on Rogers takeover of Chum OTAs — decision pending.

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