Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bell says it needs to get bigger to take on international competitors


Bell says it needs to get bigger to take on international competitors
Canadian firm wants the CRTC to approve its $3.4-billion bid for Astral Media
 By Luann Lasalle, The Canadian Press September 15, 2012
Bell should be allowed buy specialty TV and radio station company Astral Media to get bigger to take on foreign online competitors like Netflix, BCE CEO George Cope said Friday as part of the telecom giant's final pitch to CRTC. If the $3.4-billion deal is shot down, Astral's assets will ultimately be split up, guaranteeing the continued foreign dominance in every way that online content is delivered, Cope said.
Astral own 25 channels, including The Movie Network, HBO Canada and French -language Super Ecran, Family Channel and Disney Junior and more than 80 radio stations.
"Canada should not have to wait any longer to deploy a viable, national multi-platform solution, backed by a company with the resources to compete against well-funded global competitors," he said on the final day of the regulatory hearing.
If the acquisition is approved, Bell will have even more content from Astral to put on TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets of its own customers and to sell to its competitors. Bell bought the rest of the CTV assets it didn't already own in 2010 to put more programming across the four screens.
Meanwhile, the CBC objected in a last minute letter to the CRTC on Friday to Bell's plans to set up a new, national French-language all-news service.
CBC's French-language service has RDI, a 24-hour all-news service and Quebecor runs French all-news service LCN. Bell's proposed service would mean a third French-language all-news competitor based in Montreal.
During Bell's final pitch to the CRTC, Cope played down the potential dominance of Bell would have.
"As we've made clear, Bell's share of English language TV viewing will be 33.5 per cent following the Astral-Bell transaction," Cope said.
That's under the 35 per cent threshold set by the CRTC.
Cope also said Bell makes its TV content available to its competitors, denying accusations the company has been an unwilling or difficult negotiator and has pushed up prices.
Astral CEO Ian Greenberg says Canada needs its own online TV and movie service to compete with Netflix and the merger of the two companies would allow that.
If it's so easy to set up competitors to Netflix, why hasn't anyone else in Canada already done that, asked Greenberg.
"The answer is that it requires the scope only a transaction like this one brings," Greenberg told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
"Astral considered doing so, alone and in partnership, but we were unable to develop a viable business case," he said.
Greenberg added that competition won't disappear because of the transaction and independent players will continue to emerge, saying, "After all, that's how we got started."
Earlier Friday, several small TV, film and media companies spoke up in favour of Bell's takeover of Astral, saying bigger is better to compete with online entertainment companies.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

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