Bell Completes CTV Acquisition, Outlines Revamped Mobile And Broadcasting Strategies

by Gaurav Kheterpal on April 4, 2011

Last September, BCE Inc. looked all set to change the game in Canada’s telecommunications sector with its $1.3 billion deal to purchase CTV Inc. However, rivals soon cried foul and left BCE looking for a break on its deal to purchase CTVglobemedia Inc. It’s fair to say that BCE’s troubles had merely begun last year and were further compounded when the CRTC on March 7, stated that they would only approve the acquisition of CTVglobemedia under the condition that BCE invest 10 percent of the $2.45 billion valuation in “tangible benefits.”

As ill-timed as it seems, BCE finally managed to complete the CTV purchase on April Fool’s Day. BCE management can finally breathe a sigh of relief as it has finally pulled off the CTV acquisition, about three months ahead of schedule. The company last week launched Bell Media, a new business unit encompassing all CTV and other Bell content assets.

As expected, BCE says CTV will make more of its programming available on smartphones and tablets. More importantly, the Canadian phone giant declared said it will not pass on so-called value for signal costs to its Bell TV customers. I’m sure the decision would bring major relief to all Bell customers who were left fearing the worst of the ongoing Bell-CTV drama. Either way, it’s good to know that Bell “doesn’t want to tinker with the CTV brand, just make it more available.

The signal from BCE is loud and clear – it wants to reach more viewers by making programs available on not just traditional TV sets, but also computers, tablets and smartphones. By 2015, the Canadian phone giant expects to have more than 15 million customers using their TVs, computers, tablets or smartphones to view shows. While that’s not impossible, it would be interesting to see how BCE unfolds its cards against competitive broadcasters.

Bell Media division has already launched a paid subscription service of television shows for mobile devices. In a complete U-turn on its earlier “Please All” approach, BCE says it will ask competing cable and satellite providers to pay for access to the flagship CTV network. To be honest, I’m not surprised with this announcement. BCE ended up paying a fortune to get CTV in the bag and now the Canadian phone giant is hitting its broadcasting rivals where it hurts most. Last year, BCE openly blasted CRTC over the then proposed signal fee. BCE now says “The conventional TV model is better served through value-for-signal, and now that we own the business there’s clearly no doubt about that”. Times sure have changed.

On the brighter side, BCE is making the most of CTV acquisition to juice up its mobile portfolio with offerings such as Business News Network, CTV News Channel, MTV, TSN and TSN2 and the French-language sports channel RDS, and The Comedy Network.

Whether we like it not, all of Canada’s private broadcaster networks are now owned by Internet and TV providers. And we still keep talking about “fair practices” and “competition” – surely something’s gotta change.

Though BCE says it won’t make satellite TV subscribers pay to carry local TV station signals, I’m not sure how long would it take to reverse that stand. What do you make of Bell scooping up CTV and then triggering a price war over the so-called signal fee? Can consumer interests be protected if Canada’s broadcasting industry is held to ransom by Internet and TV providers? Please voice your opinion by leaving a comment below this post.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. Follow TheTelecomBlog.comby: RSS,TwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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