CSA could push separation of Canal Plus FTA as condition for Bolloré acquisition

French media regulator the CSA could recommend the effective separation of Canal Plus’s free and pay TV activities as a possible condition for approval by the French competition authority of its acquisition of Bolloré-owned channels Direct 8 and Direct Star, according to a report in news magazine Le Point.

According to the magazine, the CSA – which was asked by the competition regulator to provide an opinion on the merger – is not opposed to the acquisition of the free-to-air channels, which it believes will provide competition to existing free broadcasters TF1 and M6.

However, in order to limit Canal Plus’s ability to carry its existing buying power for movies, sports and rights to TV series into the free TV world, it is raising the idea that purchasing of free and pay TV rights should be separated into distinct operational units for free and pay. It has also raised the possibility that Canal Plus could be limited in the number of series it can buy from Hollywood studios, according to the magazine.

In order to create a stronger separation between free and pay, the CSA is also proposing a number of possible scenarios, such as ownership of Direct 8 and Direct Star by Vivendi rather than Canal Plus, or the separation of advertising sales arms, according to Le Point. Finally, the CSA is arguing that Bolloré-backed media buying agency Havas will have to be made to act in a non-discriminatory way when Bolloré becomes a shareholder in Vivendi as a result of the channels deal.

Earlier this month, Le Point also reported exclusively that the CSA would recommend that a highly restrictive set of conditions be placed on Canal Plus to greenlight for a second time its 2006 merger with TPS, currently under review by the competition authority.