CRTC sets public hearing on V’s ownership change

Bell Media plans to acquire V and AVOD service Noovo.ca in a transaction valued at $25.2 million, with a tangible benefit package of around $2.5 million.
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The CRTC has set a public hearing in early 2020 to consider Bell Media’s planned acquisition of Groupe V Media’s French-language conventional TV network V, with new details emerging on the deal.

Bell Media plans to acquire V and AVOD service Noovo.ca in a transaction valued at $25.2 million, with a tangible benefit package worth 10%, or $2.5 million. The media company proposed 60% of the package would be allocated to the Canada Media Fund and 40% to the Bell Fund, with the amount used for French-language programming initiatives.

The application from Bell Media revealed that Groupe V has lost $7 million over the last two years, calling the loss unsustainable for an independent broadcaster in Quebec. Bell Media argues the acquisition will give V channels the ability to trigger funding on higher budget productions.

Bell Media also proposed an amendment to its French-language group licence, requesting that the CRTC combine the Programs of National Interest (PNI) expenditure threshold of Bell Media and V to 16.5%. Bell Media’s current PNI spend threshold is 18%, while Groupe V’s is 10%.

The public hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 12, 2020 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, and the deadline for comments and interventions on the acquisition is Nov. 28, 2019. If approved, Bell Media will take over V stations effective Sept. 1, 2020.

The proposed transaction has already met criticism from media company Quebecor, which released a statement in July arguing the acquisition will “dramatically increase [Bell Media's] power and dominance in the French-language market in terms of competitive posture, advertising revenues and content offerings, ultimately at the expense of the consumer.”

Quebecor and Bell clashed earlier this year over a carriage dispute when Quebecor cut the TVA Sports signal for Bell customers on April 10 during the NHL Playoffs, forcing Bell to file a Quebec Superior Court Injunction to temporarily restore it. The CRTC gave a mandatory order for Quebecor to restore the signal after calling the companies to Gatineau for a hearing on April 17 regarding the dispute. Bell filed a $150 million damages claim against Quebecor, arguing the company had used misleading and defamatory statements against Bell to damage its reputation rather than negotiate.

Bell Media announced its intention to acquire V in July, just over a year after the Competition Bureau had blocked its proposed acquisition of French-language specialty channels Historia and Series+ from Corus Entertainment. At the time, Bell Media said it would “continue to seek opportunities to enhance our French-language content and grow media competition in Quebec.”

Image courtesy of the Société du Palais des congrès de Montréal

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