Vivendi buys Mediaset Premium
by Fabien Lemercier
- The parent company of the Canal+ group continues to establish itself in Italy and forges ahead with its strategy of full-scale growth in content distribution
From a European perspective, the large-scale industry manoeuvres have shifted up a gear in the ever-transforming world of producers-distributors of cinematic and TV content with the purchase of the Italian Mediaset Premium pay-TV package (which had been 89% under the control of Mediaset and 11% under the control of Spanish firm Telefonica) by French group Vivendi (which owns Canal+, among others). This operation also sees Vivendi and Mediaset buy stakes in each other (3.5% each), and the two conglomerates have also announced the imminent creation of a joint VoD platform (with Vivendi already helming CanalPlay in France and Watchever in Germany, which have 613,000 and 300,000 customers, respectively, while Mediaset manages Infinity, which has a total of 600,000 subscribers).
With Mediaset Premium and its 2 million subscribers, Vivendi is treating itself to a TV distribution platform that is still far from matching the Italian market leader, Sky Italia (with 4.7 million customers), which is itself apparently in the process of negotiating in order to finalise some exclusive partnerships (including through getting involved in distribution) with the most influential Italian film production companies. But some of the latter are also being courted by Vivendi...
This purchase by Vivendi is part of a clear strategy of expansion towards Italy, as the French group has recently acquired 25% of Telecom Italia. And while the freshly signed shareholders’ agreement limits Vivendi to a maximum of 5% of Mediaset over three years, the previous ones have shown that Vincent Bolloré, the current director of the French group, is an expert in starting off as a minority shareholder before gradually gaining more and more control. It nevertheless remains to be seen whether this French transplant will eventually manage to take hold and secure itself amidst the intricacies of the Italian market, where Canal+’s last attempt to establish itself there in the 1990s, via Telepiu, ended in disappointment in 2003, to Sky’s benefit.
In the face of the giant US content-distribution firms, Vivendi is currently strengthening its position left, right and centre. Building on the solid French foundations of Canal+ (5.9 million subscribers to pay-TV offerings in France and 11 million in total the world over; and the growth of European major StudioCanal, which is active in the production, acquisition, distribution and international sales of films and TV series – read the news), Vivendi is expanding both "defensively" (through a distribution agreement for beIn Sports, which would hoover up the Canal+ subscribers via a war for sports rights) as well as offensively (the purchase of Dailymotion, equity investments in Banijay-Zodiak for audiovisual production and in Mars Films for film production and distribution, etc). But the French group is also doing some shopping outside of Europe, as last week Canal+ bought AlternaTV, a distribution platform for (mainly Latin American) television channels intended particularly for the Spanish-language offerings of cable-network and web-TV network operators established in the United States.
(Translated from French)