Astral & Bell Respond to CRTC Submissions


MONTREAL: Astral Media and BCE have issued their replies to interventions filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), as part of the process to review the proposed transaction to merge the two companies.

The two have already agreed to sell several Astral TV services, including 100 percent of Astral’s English-language specialty services and 50 percent of its French-language specialty TV. After selling 11 Astral assets, Bell Media would retain eight of the company’s pay- and specialty-TV services.

The main opposition from competitors is that they believe the combination will somehow restrict their access to content. However, both Astral and Bell have long-term distribution and affiliation agreements in place.

"Astral and Bell Media are happy to present our plan to deliver great new TV, radio and film content across all platforms and to enhance competition in a rapidly evolving broadcasting system," said Kevin Crull, the president of Bell Media. "We appreciate the letters of support received from Canadian consumers, creators, and broadcast and cable companies, and we acknowledge those who question the transaction. We believe our plan fully addresses their concerns, and we look forward to detailing the benefits of the transaction during the CRTC’s public hearing in May."

"Astral is proud of our long history of creating world-class content and world-class opportunities here in Québec and across Canada," added Jacques Parisien, the executive VP and COO of Astral. "By joining with Bell Media, we’ll build on that proud legacy, ensuring consumers and creators benefit from accelerated investment and innovation in new programming, especially in the French-language media marketplace."

"A primary focus for Bell Media is growth in Québec and the French-language media marketplace. Even after the sale of half of Astral’s French-language specialty TV services, Bell Media would increase its viewing share in this market to 22.6 percent—still less than the 31 percent viewing share enjoyed by Québecor, but a significant enhancement to market competition nevertheless," said Crull. "All of these remaining English and French-language TV services are part of the Astral and Bell Media plan to increase consumer choice and service innovation in Canadian media."