Conditional green light for Canal Plus deals

France’s Competition Authority, l’Autorité de la concurrence, has approved the acquisition of satellite broadcaster TPS by Vivendi Universal and Canal Satellite and Canal Plus subject to a number of conditions aimed at restoring sufficient competition in the pay-TV market. The authority had reversed its 2006 authorisation in September 2011, fining the parties €30 million and requiring them to resubmit the takeover application.

Among the conditions is that the Canal Plus Group sell its stake in movie pay-TV bouquet Orange Cinéma Séries. In addition, the Group’s film rights purchasing behaviour will be supervised, including limiting framework contracts to three years, signing contracts for each different type of rights (the first window, second window, series, etc..).

In a separate notification, the regulator authorised Canal Plus Group and Vivendi’s acquisition of Direct 8, Direct Star, Direct Productions, Direct Digital et Bolloré Intermédia. The acquisition of FTA channels Direct 8 and Direct Star meant that Canal Plus, already the leading supplier of pay-TV in France, strengthened its market presence in the FTA sector. The acquisitions are also subject to a number of conditions in relation to movie rights and other exclusivities.

The takeover is subject to authorisation by France’s Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), which is expected in September.

Although welcoming the competition regulator’s decisions in respect of the Bolloré transactions, Canal Plus Group has confirmed that it disagrees with the Autorité de la concurrence’s analysis, as well as with the conditions it intends to impose and said it would appeal immediately to the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State) for immediate cancellation and annulment. It would also be contesting the September 2011 withdrawal of authorisation which led to the current renotification process.

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