Canal+ is becoming an increasingly important player in Central and Eastern Europe.
Up until last year, despite its high international profile, the Vivendi-owned French audiovisual media group, to all intents and purposes, only had a presence in Poland. It had arguably chosen the country as the ‘safest bet’ in what was still an unstable region back in the early 1990s to launch its pay-TV channel and subsequently DTH platform. Today, it is one of the largest, longest established and most important stakeholders in the Polish TV industry.
The real turning point came exactly a year ago, when Canal+ entered into an agreement to buy Luxembourg-based M7 Group for just over €1 billion. Through the deal it gained control of M7 Group’s interests in Europe, which included the Czech and Slovak DTH operation Skylink and former UPC DTH platforms – acquired only months earlier by M7 Group – in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
Being part of the Canal+ Group is likely to prove particularly significant for Skylink, which has already found itself working closely with its sister operation in Poland. This could eventually lead to it launching more proprietary channels, though the priority remains extending its on demand library.
It also remains to be seen if Canal+ decides to make any changes to the distribution of Skylink and freeSAT in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. While the former employs Astra, the latter uses Thor/Intelsat, the Thor 0.8 degrees West position also being favoured by the former UPC DTH platforms in Hungary (UPC Direct) and Romania (Focus Sat).
However, Canal+’s main focus in the CEE will almost certainly remain Poland for the foreseeable future. Indeed, only this week it raised the stakes by launching a new online service that effectively makes all its channels and on demand library available contract-free to all internet users.
More interesting developments in Canal+’s regional operations can be expected in the months to come.
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