Competition Bureau Approves $3.38 Billion Bell Media-Astral Media Merger

The Competition Bureau has granted the revised $3.38 billion Bell Media-Astral deal to go through, pending approval from the CRTC:

“Consumers who pay for television programming are looking for greater choice, more innovative product offerings, and reasonable prices,” said John Pecman, Interim Commissioner. “Today’s agreement is essential to preserving choice for consumers and ensuring continued and effective competition in this area.”

Bell announced it will sell a number of its Astral TV services, while retain the following: the French-language SuperÉcran, CinéPop, Canal Vie, Canal D, VRAK TV, and Z Télé, and English-language services The Movie Network, which includes HBO Canada, and TMN Encore.

“This positive news from the Competition Bureau is a major step forward in uniting Astral and Bell Media and delivering on our promise to grow investment and competition in Canadian broadcasting,” said George Cope , President and CEO of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada . “This decision preserves the tremendous value the transaction represents to consumers, the Canadian media community, and Astral and Bell shareholders.”

The divestitures will mean Bell Media will have a French language viewing share of 23%, below Quebecor’s 30.5%. As for English share, Bell will have 35.7%, two per cent more than its existing viewing share; these numbers are less than what was originally planned in its original merger application.

Bell will sell the following TV assets and Corus will also acquire Astral’s share of 6 TV joint ventures: the bilingual Teletoon/Télétoon service, English-language Teletoon Retro and Cartoon Network (Canada), and French-language Télétoon Rétro, Historia and Séries+. Corus will also acquire Ottawa radio stations CKQB-FM and CJOT-FM, subject to regulatory approvals.

Bell said it will also sell its English-language Family (including Disney Junior English) and Disney XD services, along with the French-language Disney Junior, Musimax and MusiquePlus services.

Essentially under the deals of the new terms, Bell will keep 8 key pay and specialty TV channels, 77 radio stations and Astral’s national out-of-home advertising business. As for Corus, they will acquire 6 TV services and 2 radio stations for $400.6 million.

Last October, the CRTC killed the Bell-Astral deal, citing “BCE failed to persuade us the deal would benefit Canadians,” said chairman Jean-Pierre Blais. Bell later submitted a modified proposal a month later.