BCE Inc gets more HBO distribution rights in Canada

Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:31pm EST
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TORONTO Nov 19 (Reuters) - Canada's BCE Inc is expanding its control of HBO content in Canada, scooping up distribution rights in the west of the country from Corus Entertainment Inc and inking an extensive deal with the premium U.S. cable network that includes online delivery.

BCE, Canada's largest telecom company and a major media company, will pay Corus C$211 million ($158.7 million) for those rights, the two companies said in statements on Thursday.

The deal directly with Time Warner Inc's HBO will give BCE's Bell Media unit exclusive rights for its linear, on-demand, and over-the-top platforms "well into the next decade," BCE said. Financial terms for that agreement were not disclosed.

BCE has spent billions to buy media companies over the last five years but struggled to deal with the loss of a lucrative sports contract and competition from streaming services such as Netflix.

The deal means first-run programming of HBO content such as Game of Thrones could be pushed to BCE's Crave TV subscription service, which it plans to make available to any Canadian with an Internet connection from January.

The media landscape in Canada is in flux as companies jostle ahead of the 2016 implementation of new rules that will force them to offer a smaller basic package of television channels to subscribers who can then add individual channels.

Bell Media already served up HBO content in eastern Canada via The Movie Network channel, while Corus had been offering it from west of Ontario.

Corus said the axing of its pay TV business in Western Canada was part of a strategic focus on core national media brands targeting kids, women and families. ($1 = 1.3295 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by David Gregorio)