Bell Canada parent to buy CTV for C$1.3 billion

Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:15pm EDT
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By Pav Jordan and Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - BCE Inc, Canada's largest telecommunications company, will pay C$1.3 billion ($1.26 billion) for the country's biggest private broadcaster, in a bold gamble on the future of video over the Internet.

The parent of Bell Canada said on Friday it would acquire the 85 percent of CTV that it does not already own in a deal that values the broadcaster at C$3.2 billion, including C$1.7 billion in debt.

CTV's stable of video content, including the rights to the 2012 Olympics and the Discovery Channel, will help BCE attract subscribers to its new Internet and wireless video services.

Executives of BCE and CTV said the appeal of a combination became apparent to them during last winter's Vancouver Games, where CTV was Canada's host broadcaster.

"We truly were kids in a candy store at the Olympics," BCE Chief Executive George Cope said at a conference call. "I remember coming back from Whistler to Vancouver watching the women's hockey game all the way on a handset," he added, referring to the venue where the Alpine events were held.

Cope, who shook up management after a failed leveraged buyout in 2007, has cut costs and shifted BCE's focus from landlines to satellite TV, mobile and Internet.

With the CTV deal, BCE is following an international shift within the industry. Forced to adapt to emerging technologies, carriers, media and cable companies are moving into each other's traditional domains, hoping to find new revenue streams.

BCE is buying the equity stake from the Woodbridge Co. Ltd, the Toronto-based holding company of the Thomson family; Ontario Teachers Pension Plan; and Torstar Corp, the publisher of the Toronto Star newspaper. Torstar shares jumped 20 percent on the news.   Continued...

<p>George Cope, president and chief executive officer of BCE Inc., prepares for the company's annual general meeting in Montreal May 6, 2010. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi</p>