Canada regulator approves BCE's takeover of CTV

Mon Mar 7, 2011 5:22pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - BCE Inc, can proceed with its C$1.3 billion ($1.34 billion) purchase of broadcaster CTV, Canada's communications regulator said on Monday, but it must await further hearings before it can offer exclusive content via the Internet or mobile devices.

As part of its widely expected approval, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said BCE, Canada's biggest telecommunications company, must invest C$245 million in broadcasting over seven years, mostly to improve programing. BCE offered C$221 million.

The CRTC also said BCE, which operates under the Bell brand, will not be allowed to offer exclusive content from CTV, the country's largest private broadcaster, on Bell's mobile or online services until the regulator completes an industry review later this year.

That review was launched the same day the CRTC gave a green light to cable company Shaw Communications' C$2 billion purchase of the television assets of distressed media company Canwest Global last October.

The BCE-CTV deal was reached in September and leaves Telus as the only major telecom company that does not also own a content provider.

BCE said it expects to close the CTV deal early in the second quarter and will update its 2011 financial guidance during its first quarter earnings call, due on May 12.

It will group CTV and its Sympatico Web portal into a new business unit called Bell Media.

($1=$0.97 Canadian)

(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Rob Wilson)