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Competition regulator to rule on Canal Plus exclusive agreements

France’s competition regulator has launched an investigation into pay TV operator Canal Plus’s exclusive agreements with content providers.

Weighing complaints from France Telecom, the competition authority has said it is within its competence to look into Canal Plus’ exclusive carriage of its own proprietary channels, as well as exclusive agreements signed between Canal Plus and its minority shareholders (notably M6, TF1 and Lagardère) that were outside the scope of earlier agreements authorised at the time of Canal Plus’s merger with TPS. The regulator said that it will specifically look at exclusive deals covering the distribution of TF1, M6 and Lagardère’s channels on fibre-optic networks, and agreements covering the delivery of the channels’ various catch-up services, as well as Canal Plus’ right of first refusal to certain services from TF1 and Lagardère. It will also look at Canal Plus’ deals with independent channels.

The regulator has made an initial assessment that Canal Plus has a dominant position in the market with regard to linear pay TV services, but has asked for more evidence concerning recent changes in the market before making a definitive decision.

The authority has ruled that the deals between Canal Plus, TF1, M6 and Lagardère that were authorised by the country’s economics ministry at the time of the former’s merger with TPS are outside the scope of the investigation. It will look at Canal Plus’ undertakings at the time of the merger under a separate procedure, and will take a decision on that sometime in the first half of 2011.