The acquisition of M7 Group by Canal+ is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe.
To understand the significance of the €1 billion+ deal requires some knowledge of Canal+’s involvement in the region to date. It has, to all intents and purposes, been minimal and confined to Poland, where the company took the plunge nearly a quarter of a century ago by launching a pay-TV channel named Canal Plus Polska.
It then went on to establish a DTH platform and has since been a hugely important player in the Polish market.
Although Canal+’s move into Poland was a vote of confidence in the country, the region as a whole in the 1990s was arguably too unpredictable for the French company and it decided not to invest in other countries.
Looking back, it seems surprising it has taken Canal+ so long to commit itself fully to the CEE region. It has now done so be acquiring a company that only recently extended its footprint beyond the Czech Republic and Slovakia by securing Liberty Global’s DTH operations, which also covered Hungary and Romania.
The implications of this will be far-reaching in all four markets. In Hungary, for instance, competition is already fierce thanks to Digi, which besides taking over the alternative telco Invitel has also entered the mobile market.
It is now likely to intensify still further, especially once Vodafone acquires UPC’s operations in the country.
The same can be said about Romania, where the industry is currently dominated by RCS&RDS, Telekom Romania and UPC.
Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia the entrance of Canal+ will further strengthen the position of Skylink and the former UPC DTH-owned Freesat operations.
With the acquisition of M7 Group, Canal+ now undoubtedly has the potential to make a huge impact on the CEE region.