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French competition watchdog will not split up Canal Plus

France’s competition watchdog has confirmed that it will not force a separation of Canal Plus’ content and distribution arms as a condition for the reauthorisation of its merger with TPS.

Bruno Lasserre, president of the competition authority, said at a press conference yesterday that the regulator would not force Canal Plus to split its channels from its pay TV distribution activities or end the broadcaster’s right to control the third-party commercialisation of its own premium channel subscribers. However, he said the option to remove pay TV bouquet CanalSat’s right to control the commercialisation of its channels.

Lasserre said he did not want to destablise the French model of financial support for the country’s cinema production activities, of which Canal Plus is a central pillar.

Lasserre said he nevertheless intends to take measures to allow the development of lower-cost pay TV offerings in France and to ensure that rival service providers can develop video-on-demand services, possibly by restricting Canal Plus’s grip on VOD deals. Lasserre said he did not believe that the entry of new online players would offer sufficient competition to justify taking no action on VOD services.

The competition authority is expected to take a final decision by July 24.