BCE Clears Important Competition Hurdle with Astral Takeover

Canada’s Competition Bureau has given the green light to BCE Inc.’s $3.38-billion takeover of Astral Media, but with several provisions.

The Bureau, after a lengthy review process and interviews with multiple industry participants in the television, cable, satellite and wireless service industry, concluded Bell must divest itself of Astral’s ownership interests in several pay and specialty television channels.

Included in the list are: The Family Channel, Teletoon, Teletoon Retro, Disney XD, the Cartoon Network, Disney Jr. (English and French), Historia, Séries+, Télétoon, Télétoon Rétro, MusiquePlus and Musimax.

Also, Bell will not be able to impose restrictive bundling requirements on any provider choosing to carry The Movie Network or Super Écran.

“Consumers who pay for television programming are looking for greater choice, more innovative product offerings, and reasonable prices,” said John Pecman, Interim Commissioner. “Today’s agreement is essential to preserving choice for consumers and ensuring continued and effective competition in this area.”

Bell plans to divest itself of a number of radio stations in order to gain approval from the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, which has yet to formally review the Bureau’s agreement.

Corus Entertainment has already agreed to buy six of the TV stations and two radio stations for $400 million, while the others will soon be made available by auction. This leaves Bell with eight of Astral’s television channels, plus 77 radio stations, which consists of an English-language viewing share of 35.7 per cent, just two percent more than it currently enjoys.

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