Bell acquires the general-interest television network V

Already well represented in the television landscape in Quebec, Bell buys the French-language general-interest channel V from the hands of Groupe V Média, opening at the same time another front in its rivalry with Quebecor.
On the small screen, the two conglomerates were already clashing in certain specialized niches, including sports, but in the language of Molière, Bell did not have a generalist channel, unlike his rival, owner of TVA.

“I think this acquisition makes us compete even better with our closest rival,” Bell Media Quebec President Karine Moses said in a telephone interview on Wednesday, which was also attended by the Group’s President and Founder. V Media, Maxime Rémillard.

The deal, whose financial details have not been released and which will undoubtedly be scrutinized by the federal authorities, also includes the video-on-demand service Noovo.ca. and the Stanley site. Groupe V Média will retain the specialty channels Max and Elle Fictions – which replaces MusiquePlus. About 165 employees are involved, but neither Bell nor Groupe V Média wanted to speculate on their future.

While platforms such as Netflix are shaking up viewing habits, Bell, which owns, among others, the Sports Network, Canal D, Canal Vie, Z, VRAK, Investigation, Super Écran, Cinepop and the English-language channel CTV Montreal, believes it can win its bet by “taking advantage of his machine”.

“We believe in conventional television,” said Ms. Moses. It’s an asset (V) that was missing from our portfolio. Conventional chains are important vehicles for Quebec independent producers. ”

Bell Media is the “largest broadcaster in Quebec with 25 stations in 14 communities”.

The head of Bell Media in Quebec is hopeful of a green light from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which last year blocked the purchase of Historia and Séries + specialty channels from Corus . The federal agency also refused the conglomerate’s request to reduce its budget for original French-language content.

According to Ms. Moses, the company has approximately 16 percent market share in the Quebec television market. They would rise to nearly 22 percent with V, which is far from the “TVA Group, with nearly 37 or 38 percent”.

In an email, the CRTC indicated that it has not yet received a request to analyze the transaction, noting that it will process “without delay” any transaction that allows a single entity to control less than 35 percent of the television market.

Difficult context

For the year ending August 26, 2018, Groupe V Média posted an operating loss of $ 2.4 million, based on CRTC data, which does not detail the performance of each channel. In 2017, the loss was $ 2.8 million.

“The media industry is undergoing profound change,” said Mr. Rémillard, whose group had taken over the general-interest channel in 2008 when it bore the name of TQS. For an independent group, it is more and more difficult. I believe that the future belongs to groups that will be vertically integrated. ”

Groupe V Média was supported by Investissement Québec (IQ) – the financial arm of the Québec government – the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ in 2014. Together, they had acquired a total of 45 percent.

The three institutional investors will remain with the company, which will change its name and continue to operate its two specialty channels. Although the amount of the transaction was not disclosed, Mr. Rémillard said that “all shareholders were happy”.

“At the level of the total value, there will be no losses for the population, said the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, on the sidelines of an announcement in Montreal. According to our assessment of value, it is a profit that would be made by IQ. ”

In September 2014, $ 7.5 million was injected by IQ into the share capital of Groupe V Média.

Plus and minus

In a context where foreign digital giants are increasingly present, see a Canadian player “raise the hand” to buy a “small generalist channel” is good news, said Pierre C. Bélanger, professor in the department of communications from the University of Ottawa.

“It’s healthy for the future of the industry,” he said in a phone interview. Competition will increase and players will be asked to raise their game a notch. ”

His colleague Marc-François Bernier, who teaches at the same institution’s Department of Communication, however, recalled that media concentration was never positive news for a “democratic society”.

If the CRTC gives its approval, the professor hopes that the federal agency will withdraw the privileges that had been granted to V in recent years.

“There was no newsroom at V,” said Bernier. The chain largely buys news produced by others. If the CRTC lets Bell take possession of V, we will have to impose conditions similar to those of TVA, such as having newsrooms and making public information. “

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