Bell buys CTV; Toronto media momentarily distracted by non-TIFF news

Bell buys CTV; Toronto media momentarily distracted by non-TIFF news

The big news today isn’t how unflattering Nelly Furtado’s dress was at the TIFF opening party (although it was pretty unflattering), but rather that Bell Canada is buying up the remaining shares of the CTV television network that it doesn’t already own (about 85 per cent). Bell is buying the shares owned by the Thomson family, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Torstar. It’s the latest big deal by a major telecom company to buy up a private broadcaster after Rogers bought CHUM and Shaw bought Canwest.

The Globe and Mail, unsurprisingly, has the details:

With the deal, which has yet to be cleared by federal regulators, Bell Canada Enterprises acquires all of CTV’s television assets, including the CTV network and specialty cable channels such as TSN, Bravo and the Business News Network.

The transaction also breaks apart CTVglobemedia Inc., created a decade ago when CTV merged with the Globe and Mail. Woodbridge Co. Ltd., the holding company of the Toronto-based Thomson family, will regain majority ownership of the Globe with an 85 per cent stake. BCE will retain its current 15 per cent share of Canada’s largest circulation national newspaper and its related websites.

There are a whole bunch of implications raised by this deal. This first is that Bell is busy rolling out its Fibe TV service—CTV’s assets will go nicely with that. More important, though, is how this latest move is the end result of last year’s obnoxious PR war between broadcasters and cable-satellite providers over “fee for carriage” (or forcing cable and satellite companies to pay for the broadcaster’s signals). Instead of paying broadcasters for their signals, cable and satellite companies seem to have decided it’s easier to just buy the companies themselves.

This is obviously something that’s going to be developing for some time, but there are questions to ask about a deal this big, like why investors should believe this will work any better than the last time Bell bought CTV, in 2000? That deal fell apart in 2005 and is now illustrated in dictionaries next to the word “fiasco.”

Of course, the deal will only momentarily distract people from the far more important things happening at the Bell Lightbox. Sure, this is a pretty colossal deal, but it doesn’t really offer any possibility of a live Will Farrell sighting.

BCE to take full control of CTV in deal that reshapes media landscape [Globe and Mail]
• Bell buys CTV network for $1.3 billion [Toronto Star]
• Bell to acquire 100% of Canada’s No.1 media company CTV [CNW]