Canal+ buying GTV?

Pan-African pay-TV operator GTV’s shock closure on Jan 30 has seen hundreds of staff laid off. 45 jobs went in Uganda, for example, which left a reported 7000 subscribers without their DTH service. Reportedly Canal Plus has been talking about buying the company’s assets.

In a terse statement on Jan 30 the board of GTV’s parent company, Gateway Broadcasting Services said it has wound up business. "The current financial and global crisis has severely interrupted the company's ability to secure further funding for the continued operation of the business," the board said.

GTV General Manager Daniel Kagwe told the Sunday Monitor newspaper that the group has closed down all its 25 branches in Africa including the Uganda office, according to BBC Monitoring. “That is it. Our offices are closed. There is no signal. I would like to apologise to our subscribers and to thank them for their support. Unfortunately that is how it ends," he said.

Asked if the company would compensate subscribers who had just renewed their membership, Mr Kagwe said, "if there is anything we can do in the future may be we shall get back to them...but as of now our offices are closed."

The Africa-wide GTV service has an estimated 100,000 subscribers across Africa and has over the last two years invested a total of US$200m. Although the company didn't indicate what it would do with its accumulated assets, newswire reports said GTV had in fact been sold to Canal Plus, a subsidiary of the French media behemoth, Vivendi for 23.6m dollars.

According to a Bloomberg report, GTV needed 400,000 subscribers to break even, which is too far above its current number of customers. GTV has fought a fierce turf battle with DSTV across Sub-Saharan Africa but the latter has lately appeared to prevail, boasting of a subscriber base of three million.

GTV’s Kagwe however, said that the deal with Canal Plus failed to materialize. "That was the last straw. Canal Plus withdrew from the deal last week and that is what broke us down," he said, adding, "I feel very said about it. I feel like somebody has died."

He also said he does not know if there would be continuity with the programmes through an alternative service provider. GTV had 80% of the broadcast rights of the English Premiership. South African-based Multichoice DsTV broadcasts the other 20% of the English matches.

A spokesman for GTV was quoted as saying, "We realize the negative impact this has had on our loyal customers, creditors and staff, all of who have believed in GTV and the revolution in pay TV it had created. We have tried every possible step to keep the company going but we are all the unfortunate victims of the current global economic crisis."