Canada’s competition bureau clears new Bell-Astral deal

Pending regulatory approval, part of the deal would result in Corus Entertainment fully owning French-language specialty net Historia among others, and Corus selling its 20% interest in Food Network Canada to Shaw Media.
March 5, 2013

BCE has released details around its new bid to purchase Astral Media, after its first bid was turned down by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) last fall. The new deal has now been approved by Canada’s Competition Bureau, but still needs CRTC approval.

The company is gearing up for round two in its CAD$3.38 billion quest to acquire Astral Media, the complete application for which will be made public in the coming weeks.

The new bid proposes that Corus Entertainment, entering into separate agreements with Shaw Media and BCE, acquire Teletoon and ABC Spark, and expand Corus’ presence in the French-language specialty market, to the tune of $494 million.

Pending regulatory approval, the deals together would result in Corus fully owning Teletoon, ABC Spark and French-language specialty channels Historia and Series+.

The proposed deal with Bell will see Corus acquire the remaining 50% ownership interest in Teletoon (which is current held by Astral), and the Ottawa-based radio stations CKQB-FM and CJOT-FM (also currently owned by Astral).

Separately, the deal with Shaw Media will see Corus acquire the remaining 49% interest in specialty service ABC Spark from Shaw, and Corus will sell its 20% interest in Food Network Canada to Shaw Media.

That means Shaw Media will hold controlling interest in Food Network Canada, with Scripps Networks Interactive maintaining a minority ownership in the specialty food channel.

In addition, Corus, in agreement with Bell and Shaw will acquire each of the companies’ respective 50% interests in French-language specialty channels Historia and Series+.

Historia and Series+ are both currently 50-50 owned by Astral and Shaw Media.

In an analyst and investor call on Tuesday morning, Corus said that the proposed deal gives Corus Entertainment a larger footprint and the scale to compete in Québec and French-language specialty market.

According to Corus, the combined acquisition of the services would capture 8% of French-language television viewing share, and result in ownership of three of the most-watched French-language channels, particularly among women, in that market.

Corus said that Series+, which features scripted comedy and drama programming, and Historia, which features informative and entertainment programming, have a combined revenue of approximately $51 million, with each channel available to 2.1 million subscribers.

The company noted that Series+ would benefit from Corus’ expertise in the women’s vertical and Télétoon would expand its presence in the young adult sales vertical, while full ownership of ABC Spark is a growth opportunity for Corus.

First announced in March 2012, the original proposed deal for Bell Media to acquire Astral Media was worth $3.38 billion. It was rejected by the CRTC because, as regulator head Jean-Pierre Blais said at the time, “At the end of the day, BCE demonstrated clearly that the proposed transaction was good for BCE, but we were not persuaded that it was in the best interest of Canadians.”

Because of the need for regulatory approvals, the outside date for the transaction has been extended to June 1, 2013 with both Astral and Bell Media having the right to extend that further to July 31, 2013.

(From Playback Daily. With files from Media in Canada’s Val Maloney) 

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.