Bell Media - Attempted Acquisition of Astral

Attempted Acquisition of Astral

See also: Astral Media#Attempted takeover by Bell Media

On March 16, 2012, BCE announced that it had entered in an agreement to acquire Montreal-based broadcaster Astral Media for an estimated value at $3.38 billion; the assets of which were to be incorporated into Bell Media. The acquisition was primarily centered around Astral's premium services (such as The Movie Network and its stake in HBO Canada) and its French-language radio and television stations. Bell planned to use Astral's premium offerings to enhance its own multi-platform services to compete against the likes of services such as Netflix, and its French media outlets to better compete against the dominant Québecor Média. The merger was notably opposed by a coalition of competing cable providers (which included Cogeco, EastLink, and Vidéotron—the last of which is also owned by Québecor Média, who felt that Bell's control of a majority of Canadian media would harm consumer choice, and lead to increased carriage fees which could cripple smaller cable companies.

On October 18, 2012, the CRTC officially denied BCE's proposal to acquire Astral. The commission cited that their combined market power could "threaten the availability of diverse programming for Canadians and endanger the ability of distribution undertakings to deliver programming at affordable rates and on reasonable terms on multiple platforms", and also stated that allowing the merger would have required the implementation of "extensive and intrusive safeguards" across the entire broadcasting industry. The CRTC also felt that Bell did not adequately demonstrate how having most of Canada's French-language media be owned by two vertically integrated companies would improve competition, and how being bigger would allow it to compete against foreign services. Due to conditions placed upon the merger in the case of regulatory disapproval, Bell must pay Astral $150 million in penalties.

BCE & Astral announced that they have extended the closure of the their deal for Astral Media to December 16, 2012. It was also announced that Rogers is interested in purchasing various Astral Media Assets, with that said. It will allow BCE/ Astral to adjust their takeover deal with the elimination of certain assets.

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