Shares in Europe?s biggest pay TV companies, the UK?s BSkyB and France's Canal Plus, have soared following merger talks that could make them a formidable force in the digital TV space.
While talks are believed to be at the very early stages, they are understood to include the possibility of a full #14 billion merger. This would lead to them becoming the biggest payTV players in Europe by far.
Analysts, however, doubt that such a move would ever get past the regulators, although they have not ruled out a partnership.
Canal Plus was playing its cards close to its chest today. A spokesperson said: ?Canal Plus has conversations with the Murdoch Group as it does with other audiovisual groups. Discussions of this type are part of Canal Plus?s normal relations with partners and competitors and does not call for any specific comment.?
He confirmed, however, that the group was planning to try and establish itself as a leader in digital television and currently had 11 million subscribers across Europe.
?We have launched digital packages in France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Poland and have developed interactive service guides, including programme guides and the metro. We now have an employment channel where customers can directly respond to job ads, and we will expand this concept further across channels,? he said.
BSkyB, on the other hand, has made no secret of its digital strategy, and aims to have one million subscribers signed up to its digital packages by October this year. It also plans to introduce ecommerce and digital services over the coming months, but declined to comment on the rumours.
But any possible merger would also include sports rights. BSkyB has made a recommended #623 million bid for Manchester United football club, which is currently being investigated by the UK?s Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Canal Plus owns the French club, Paris St Germain.
BSkyB shares rose 3.5 per cent or 18.25 pence to close at 536.75 pence yesterday as a result of the rumours.
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