With the announcement of media deals worth close to US$13 billion last month, Vivendi Universal strengthened its standing as a global media heavyweight. Just days after Edgar Bronfman Jr. announced his resignation as executive vice chairman of Vivendi Universal in early December, Vivendi agreed to invest $1.5 billion in EchoStar Communications Corp. The deal will give Vivendi a 10% stake in EchoStar, the second largest satellite television service in the U.S.
In mid-December came the announcement that Vivendi would acquire the entertainment assets of USA Networks in a deal valued at more than US$11 billion to become Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE). The deal will improve distribution of Vivendi Universal’s music and movies in the U.S. It will also combine USA Network’s assets such as the USA and Sci-Fi cable channels with Vivendi’s Hollywood-based Universal Studios. Vivendi Universal will have 93% control of VUE, while USA group and USA Networks chairman Barry Diller will control the remaining component.
Diller will serve as chairman of VUE and will also head up the remaining assets of the USA group, renamed USA Interactive. Michael Jackson, who was named head of USA Entertainment in November of last year after leaving his job as chief executive of Channel 4, will retain his post as chairman and CEO of USA Entertainment within the new VUE group.
Commenting on the deals, chairman and CEO of Vivendi Universal Jean-Marie Messier says, ‘Along with our strategic partnership with EchoStar, this transaction fully addresses Vivendi Universal’s needs in terms of integration and distribution on the U.S. market.’
Over at Vivendi-owned Canal+, many changes are in the works, including an overhaul of the French pay TV channel’s editorial line. According to Anna Glogowski, director of documentaries at Canal+, further information about the changes should come to light in the next few weeks.