Antitrust Constraints Scupper Italian Pay-TV Merger

16 May 2002

Vivendi Universal has pulled out of the planned merger of its Italian pay-TV unit Telepiu with main local competitor Stream [WAMN:15-Feb -02], fifty-fifty owned by Telecom Italia and News Corporation.

The withdrawal followed new conditions laid down by Italian antitrust regulators. In a statement jointly issued by Vivendi and its French pay-TV subsidiary Canal Plus, the French conglomerate expressed “regret that extra conditions have been set on top of those already agreed with the antitrust [regulator] which do not enable the mid- and long-term viability of the merged company”.

The pull-out, clearly with the blessing of Vivendi’s controversial chief executive Jean-Marie Messier, has not pleased fellow media mogul and co-owner of Stream Rupert Murdoch. Says a NewsCorp spokesperson: “We will enforce our rights under the agreement. Stream remains in business as an active competitor.”

NewsCorp’s lips were zipped as to on what those rights might be. But Stream appears to be safe following Tuesday’s statement by Murdoch that he will not let the heavily-in-the-red broadcaster go down.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff