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Canal Plus adds 400,000 subscribers

Soccer rights could be at risk

PARIS — The number of Canal Plus pay TV subscribers has jumped by more than 400,000 over the past year to total almost 5.5 million, chairman and managing director Bertrand Meheut has told weekly Journal du Dimanche.

He said flagship programs, such as talkshows “La Matinale” and “Salut les terriens,” and Sunday news program “Dimanche+,” had an average audience rise of 15% over the past year.

Meheut refused to be drawn on the continuing uncertainty surrounding the TV rights for top league soccer in France, which are currently held by Canal Plus and undeniably the company’s biggest subscriber draw.

While saying that Canal Plus is willing to put “a substantial sum on the table” for 2008-2011 soccer rights, he said it still wants to hear details of other broadcasters’ offers.

Jean-Bernard Levy, the chairman of Canal Plus parent Vivendi, said earlier this month that cuts had to be made to content acquisitions, including the Euros 600 million ($852 million) yearly fee paid for League One soccer rights.

The presidents of three of France’s largest clubs recently said the rights for the next three seasons should be worth at least Euros 750 million ($1.065 billion) annually. Last week, the Union des Clubs Professionnels de Football asked the League One president to delay launching the tender, scheduled for late November, until French authorities have made a definitive decision on the duration of any new broadcasting rights contract.