French watchdog unhappy with Canal Plus TPS Star move

France’s competition authority has reportedly expressed strong reservations about pay TV operator Canal Plus’s recent decision to shut down pay TV channel TPS Star.

The pay TV operator did not believe that the loss-making TPS Star was economically viable, and recently notified the authority of its intention to cease distributing the service. However, the competition authority last year cited Canal Plus’s failure to invest in TPS Star as one of the reasons for its decision to rescind its authorisation of the merger with TPS and impose new conditions on the group. According to financial daily Les Echos, the competition authority has expressed its displeasure that Canal Plus’s decision to shut down the channel coincided with its own ruling that the acquisition of the channel in 2006 had to be re-authorised.

Media regulator the CSA has yet to take a decision on whether to accept Canal Plus’ wish to hand back the digital-terrestrial frequency previously occupied by TPS Star – a decision Canal Plus needs in order to stay within the law limiting its DTT allocation to seven channels as a result of its acquisition of Bolloré’s DTT channels Direct 8 and Direct Star.

The competition authority has also reportedly expressed its discontent with Canal Plus’s decision to cease distributing its Sport Plus, Piwi Plus and Teletoon Plus services to ISPs. Making its services available to rivals was another of the conditions placed on Canal Plus at the time of its merger with TPS in 2006.

M6 CEO Nicolas de Tavernost has also entered the fray, comparing the TPS Star case with that of M6-owned Paris Première. Two months ago the commercial broadcaster was refused permission by media regulator the CSA to move Paris Première from pay to free-to-air on the digital-terrestrial platform.

De Tavernost said there was a growing question mark over the future of the pay TV platform on DTT, following bids for free-to-air channels only to take the six new frequencies on offer from the media regulator, the decision by Canal Plus to withdraw TPS Star and the decision by the Professional Football League to shut down its CFoot channel.

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