French media groups are at the forefront of the consolidation now taking place across Central and Eastern Europe.
Just this week we have seen two major deals announced, with Iliad’s subsidiary Play agreeing to buy UPC Polska from Liberty Global for PLN7 billion (€1.52 billion) and Canal+ acquire a 70% stake in SPI International, a global media company with its roots still very much in the region, for an undisclosed fee.
When Liberty Global sold its operations in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania to Vodafone two years ago, it was left with a regional presence in only Poland and Slovakia. In the case of Poland, UPC has since lost the number spot in the cable market to Vectra following the latter’s acquisition of Multimedia Polska, while Iliad has entered the Polish market by buying the country’s leading mobile operator Play.
Assuming the sale of UPC Polska to Play receives regulatory approval, the latter will find itself in a much better position to compete with the likes of Vectra, Grupa Polsat Plus and the French-owned incumbent Orange.
Meanwhile, Canal+’s decision to take a majority stake in SPI International marks the latest stage in the Vivendi-owned group’s international expansion. This includes the acquisition of M7 Group, bringing with it extensive TV interests in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania, back in 2019.
For its part, SPI International operates a total of 42 FTA and pay-TV channels in Europe, though especially CEE, with FilmBox among its flagship services. However, its presence extends to other continents, and all told it works with over 700 operators worldwide to offer their subscribers its linear and on demand services.
On a regional level, the impact of the transaction will arguably be most felt in Poland, where Canal+’s extensive interests already include the DTH platform Platforma Canal+, leading film distributor Kino Swiat and numerous thematic services.
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