Another of Bell Media’s rivals is speaking out against its impending acquisition of Astral Media, echoing complaints that it will upset the balance of power in the Canadian market.
Vancouver-based telco Telus on Tuesday supported the ‘Say No to Bell’ coalition of distributors and broadcasters that last week moved to block the C$3.3bn (US$3.3bn) buy-out.
“If the Bell/Astral merger proceeds, the concentration of Canadian ownership will be equal to an American company owning Verizon, DirecTV, CBS, ESPN, MTV, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Bloomberg Television, HBO, Starz, ClearChannel Radio, ESPN pay-per-view, HBO pay-per-view, Lamar Outdoor Advertising and Radio Shack,” said Telus president and CEO Darren Entwistle.
“It’s a gravely concerning proposition,” he added. Astral’s holdings include pay service The Movie Network, an outdoor advertising division, the Canadian version of Disney XD, half of both HBO Canada and specialty channel Teletoon, many French-language specialty channels and a host of radio stations.
The deal has yet to clear Canadian regulators. Hearings before the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) are to be held later this year and the deal is under review by the Competition Bureau.
Opponents claim it will leave Bell with a greater share of the broadcasting sector than regulations allow – 49.51% said Telus, 45% according to the coalition. Bell puts the figure at 33.5% for English Canada, just below the CRTC’s 35% limit.
Telus went on to warn there is “potential for market abuse” by Bell, which already owns CTV and a host of top specialty channels. Through a separate deal with Rogers Communications, Bell is also hoping to buy sporting giant Toronto-based Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment.
Telus does not own any broadcast outlets but competes against Bell’s parent company, Bell Canada Enterprises, in other arenas including satellite TV provision and internet/phone service.