Canal Plus breaks into Asian market

French company to launch Vietnamese channels

PARIS — France’s Canal Plus Group is expanding beyond Europe and French-speaking Africa into Asia, inking a joint satellite TV venture with Vietnamese public broadcaster VTV.

The Gallic paybox will hold 49% in the partnership, which sees CPG teaming with VTV satellite subsid VCTV to launch a bouquet of pay TV channels in Vietnam.

CPG investment in the initiative, the first between a Vietnamese public broadcaster and a foreign TV group, runs to $50 million, said CPG president Bertrand Meheut.

VCTV currently operates around 20 channels. CPG and VCTV aim to raise this number to 60 services, said Canal Overseas chairman Jean-Noel Tronc. The refortified bouquet will launch late 2009.

“As was the case with Canal Plus in Poland, we’re developing an entirely different Canal Plus channel bouquet, targeting Vietnamese viewers — with much exclusive programming that will either be dubbed or subtitled into Vietnamese,” Tronc said.

The new channels still have to be decided on. The 60 channel mix will feature both local and international services, he added.

CPG’s Canal Overseas will manage the joint venture, bringing its expertise in the creation of satellite/cable TV channels and customer management.

According to Meheut, CPG will expand its acquisition of TV shows to feed the joint venture. CPG aims to reach one million subscribers in Vietnam by 2012, he added.

Despite facing straitened circumstances this year, Vietnam’s GDP is still expected to grow by 5%.

The deal sees Canal Plus seeking new geographic revenue streams as growth inevitably slows in France.

Though it forecasts client growth this year and has seen healthy recent ad revs, Canal Plus lost net subscribers first quarter 2009.

“The French pay TV market is very tough,” said Francois Godard, at Enders Analysis.

“Recession has marginally raised churn. The market is increasingly mature, and Canal Plus is suffering competition from France Telecom-Orange.”