Bell-Astral transaction firing up TV competition in Québec

Aug 7, 2012

Increased competition and consumer choice clearly has dominant TV rivals worried

MONTREAL, Aug. 7, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Today's effort by certain cable/media competitors to launch a public misinformation campaign around Bell's acquisition of Astral Media is clear evidence that the competitive landscape is changing, and the new reality has competitors worried.

"With Astral, we're actually leveling 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, 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 meets all 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 are within the CRTC threshold of 35%, below which transactions can proceed without concern.

Note that even after the Bell-Astral transaction, Québecor 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. As well, Québecor's Vidéotron cable business still dominates Québec TV with two-thirds of the market - Bell has approximately 20% -- and Québecor has been a vertically integrated cable/media company since 2000.

"While it's understandable that our rivals would try to eliminate the competitive threat posed by Bell, consumers benefit when companies innovate, invest and compete in the marketplace, rather than playing regulatory games," said Mirko Bibic, Bell's Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer. "The CRTC already has clear and extensive rules governing how Bell Media and other content providers sell our services, and how other distributors package them for consumers - rules we obviously respect."

Bell Media is in the business of providing content to companies like Québecor, Cogeco and Eastlink, the three cable companies that have allied against Bell. Bell is committed to making content as widely available as possible across multiple platforms. In fact, Québecor buys both Bell Media TV and now mobile TV content, while Bell buys content from them. All recent agreements Bell has entered into over the last year with cable companies across Canada have complied fully with the CRTC's rules and code of conduct.

Bell has committed to provide $200 million in additional funding for broadcasting initiatives as part the Astral acquisition. This greatly increases the funds available for new programming and talent, ensuring greater choice for consumers in terms of TV, radio and digital content than has been available until now, especially in Québec.

Bell is the largest private contributor to the Canadian broadcasting system and to Canadian content development, spending almost $600 million every year. Bell also undertakes more than $3 billion in capital expenditures annually, far more than any competitor, to fund the country's largest rollouts of new broadband infrastructure, delivering popular and competitive new services such as Bell Fibe TV, Fibe Internet and Bell Mobile TV services. Bell employs more than 50,000 people across Canada, more than 17,000 of them in Québec.

About Bell
Bell is Canada's largest communications company, providing consumers and business with solutions to all their communications needs: Bell Mobility wireless, high-speed Bell Internet, Bell Satellite TV and Bell Fibe TV, Bell Home Phone local and long distance, and Bell Business Markets IP-broadband and information and communications technology (ICT) services. Bell Media is Canada's premier multimedia company with leading assets in television, radio and digital media, including CTV, Canada's #1 television network, and the country's most-watched specialty channels.

The Bell Mental Health Initiative is a multi-year charitable program that promotes mental health across Canada via the Bell Let's Talk anti-stigma campaign and support for community care, research and workplace best practices. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

Bell is wholly owned by BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE: BCE). For Bell product and service information, please visit Bell.ca. For Bell Media, please visit BellMedia.ca. For BCE corporate information, please visit BCE.ca.

SOURCE: BELL CANADA

For further information:

Jacqueline Michelis
Bell Media Relations
1 855 785-1427
jacqueline.michelis@bell.ca