AOL Europe and Bertelsmann, which yesterday debuted their free Internet service provider Netscape Online, are rumoured to be sniffing around French pay TV company Canal Plus to further broaden their portfolio.
Vivendi, which has a 49 per cent stake in Europe’s largest pay TV company, has made no secret of the fact that it is looking to sell a stake to a partner to speed up its adoption of online and Internet services.
At the launch of Netscape Online yesterday, Andreas Schmidt, president and chief executive of AOL Europe, said that, “TV and mobile telephony” are key to its “AOL anywhere” strategy.
AOL and media giant Bertlesmann are currently rolling out an aggressive service and marketing campaign in Europe to ensure that they retain premier position.
Analysts said they would not be surprised if AOL, Bertelsmann and Canal Plus joined forces.
“There is no question that we will see convergences from different medias and companies, from telecos, portals and ISPs to television,” Elmer Stefan, Internet analyst for IDC in Denmark said. “All kinds of partnerships are likely in this domain."
Speculation has further been fuelled by Bertelsmann’s confirmation that it has sold half its stake in AOL for an estimated $691 million which it plans to invest in multimedia. This sum would buy it around a nine per cent stake in Canal Plus.
AOL Europe, however, has stressed that Bertelsmann’s decision to sell part of its stake in the online giant does not affect their relationship in any way.
“Nothing changes, we have a very close partnership,” said Schmidt.
AOL and Bertelsmann may not be alone in their interest in a share of the Canal Plus pie. Microsoft and Time Warner are also believed to have been showing interest in the pay TV company.
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