Bell: We're bringing TV competition to Quebec

Michelle Clancy | 10-08-2012

Bell Canada, which has been accused of monopolising the competitive landscape in Québec with its planned acquisition of effort Astral Media, is fighting back with an argument that it is merely lveling the playing field vis a vis dominant TV provider Quebecor.

"With Astral, we're actually levelling the playing field with the long-dominant media/cable company in Québec, Québecor, and bringing new investment and increased competition to the media marketplace," said Martine Turcotte, Bell's vice chair for Québec. "Coupled with the fast growth of next-generation services like Bell Fibe TV against traditional cable, we have our competitors concerned about how quickly their traditional market dominance is eroding. But it's the kind of new investment in content, services and networks that consumers deserve, and Bell is delivering."
Bell's acquisition of Astral does meet CRTC rules regarding media ownership. After the transaction, Bell Media's national viewership share will be 33.5% for English-language TV and 24% for French-language--both within the CRTC threshold of 35%. Québecor meanwhile will still have 30% of French-language viewership versus 24% for Bell-Astral.
"Québecor will still be larger, but simply not as dominant as in years past." Bell noted in a statement. "As well, Québecor's Vidéotron cable business still dominates Québec TV with two-thirds of the market - Bell has approximately 20%."
Bell Media meanwhile provides content to companies like Québecor, Cogeco and Eastlink, the three cable companies that it is competing against on the distribution front. The company reiterated that it will not pull back on making its content available to rivals in the wake of the acquisition.
"Bell is committed to making content as widely available as possible across multiple platforms," it said. "In fact, Québecor buys both Bell Media TV and now mobile TV content, while Bell buys content from them."
Bell has committed to provide $200 million in additional funding for broadcasting initiatives as part the Astral acquisition. As it stands, Bell is the largest private contributor to the Canadian broadcasting system and to Canadian content development, spending almost $600 million every year.