Bell-Astral to drive broadcasting investment, innovation and choice in Québec

Aug 15, 2012

  • Astral team to lead all French-language content development for Bell
  • $80 million in new funding supports Québec programming development
  • Bell will accelerate Astral's already extensive spending on French-language content
  • Québec programming expertise and decision making stays in Montréal

MONTREAL, Aug. 15, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Bell today confirmed its commitment to grow consumer choice and innovation in Québec broadcasting when it joins with Astral Media - including significant new funding for French-language content development that will be led by the Montréal-based Astral team.

TV, radio and digital content production in Québec will be supported with a new investment by Bell of $80 million, which will be dedicated to new French-language programming of national/international interest, new content for children and youth, and expanded TV and radio music programming. Overall, Bell expects to increase Astral's already significant spending on French-language content development by approximately 5% annually. Bell remains the largest private contributor to broadcasting and content development, spending almost $600 million every year across Canada.

"This new content funding committed by Bell-Astral will ensure much greater viewing choice for Québec consumers in a media marketplace where true competition and new innovation is long overdue," said George Cope, President and CEO of Bell and BCE. "Bell is focused on delivering the best content to any screen that consumers may choose - TV, smartphone, tablet or computer - whether they're Bell customers or not. With the fast growth in viewing options available in Canadian communications, our competitors know that we're ready and willing to make this great new content available to all their customers too."

Astral team will lead the way
All of Bell's French-language content development and programming will be led by the Astral team based in Montréal. Tracing its Montréal roots to 1961, Astral operates in television, radio, digital media and outdoor advertising.

"Astral and Bell are both dedicated to growing and competing in the Québec media marketplace. Now, the Astral team will have the resources and support of Bell to deliver the kind of expanded viewing choices and new ideas that Québec consumers deserve," said Martine Turcotte, Bell's Vice Chair, Québec. "As a Montréal company itself since 1880, Bell is proud that our Québec content development will be led by the Astral team right here in our home city."

As previously announced, Astral's renowned President and Chief Executive Officer Ian Greenberg will also join the BCE Inc. Board of Directors after the transaction closes.

Bell-Astral taking on the "giant"
Astral and Bell together will offer approximately 24% of the French-language TV market and 33.5% of the English TV market, as detailed in Bell's submission to the CRTC, which has been publicly available on the crtc.gc.ca website since July 10.

This is a smaller share of the French-language market than that held by Québecor, the long-dominant media/cable company in Québec, which controls 30%. The Astral-Bell transaction helps finally level the competitive playing field here while at the same time reinvigorating the Québec media scene with significant new funding and innovation.

With the largest market share in Québec media, self-described "communications giant" Québecor also operates the largest press group in Québec and across Canada with 293 newspapers; the largest cable TV provider in Québec; the largest private French-language broadcaster in Québec; the largest magazine publisher in Québec; the largest group of French-language publishing houses; the largest French/English general/special interest Internet portals; the largest music store and video chains in eastern Canada; printing and distribution services; print and online directories; and more.

Bell is shaking up the communications industry here in Québec and right across Canada with a strategy of intense investment in new media development, world-leading broadband network infrastructure, and competitive new services like next-generation Fibe TV, Fibe Internet and Bell Mobile TV.

Bell in Québec
Bell is committed to the Québec community, employing more people, spending more on Québec infrastructure and R&D, and contributing more to charities (led by the Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative) and community events than any other communications company. Bell employs more than 17,000 team members in Québec and invested over $900 million in Québec infrastructure and R&D in 2011 alone - including the rollout of the next-generation Bell Fibe network that is already ramping up competition and choice in TV and Internet services for consumers in Québec.

Bell offers Bell Mobility wireless, Bell TV, Bell Internet, Bell Home Phone and Bell Business Markets services across Canada, and is wholly owned by Montréal's BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE: BCE). For more information, please visit Bell.ca.

SOURCE: BELL CANADA

For further information:

Media inquiries:
Jean Charles Robillard
Bell Communications
(514) 870-4739
jean_charles.robillard@bell.ca

Investor inquiries:
Thane Fotopoulos
BCE Investor Relations
(514) 870-4619
thane.fotopoulos@bell.ca