* Channel launched in Oct in 30 African markets
* Focus on French-language content, price is 7 euro/month
* Canal Plus aims for growth outside of France
* After asset sales, Vivendi focuses on media
By Gwénaëlle Barzic
PARIS, July 9 Vivendi's pay-television
operator Canal Plus is seeking to expand in Africa with the
launch in October of a new French-language channel aimed at a
growing middle class.
Dubbed A+, the entertainment channel will be included in
subscriptions sold for about 7 euros a month in Canal Plus'
roughly 30 markets in central and west Africa.
Jacques du Puy, who heads Canal Plus' overseas businesses,
said the goal was to "very quickly" double the 1.3 million
customers signed up to the package by enriching it with a mix of
French and locally produced series and movies.
"Now is the time for us to develop our business in Africa,"
du Puy told at a press conference on Wednesday.
For Vivendi, the move illustrates how it seeking to develop
its media businesses after selling its French telecom operator
SFR and video games maker Activision Blizzard in a two year-long
Once the SFR sale closes later this year, Canal Plus will be
the largest driver of Vivendi's results, bringing in roughly 40
percent of operating profit compared with 33 percent for
Universal Music Group and 27 percent for Brazilian telco GVT.
But Canal Plus is under pressure in its French home market
where it is losing customers because of more widely available
free channels and the rise of Al Jazeera's BeIN Sports, which
has poached rights to some premium live content such as
Wimbledon tennis and Champions League soccer.
To cope, Canal Plus wants to grow internationally, building
on its current operations in Poland, Vietnam, in French-speaking
Africa, and more recently in Canada. The overseas businesses now
account for about 40 percent of Canal Plus' operating profit and
subscriber base, the company said on Wednesday.
The company could also consider acquisitions to beef up
Canal Plus, sources familiar with the matter earlier told
The focus on Africa also dovetails with the interests of
Vivendi's new chairman Vincent Bollore, whose family-owned
company Bollore Group runs a large transport and
logistics business across the continent.
Although revenue per subscriber is much lower in Canal Plus'
African markets than in France where packages sell for 16 to 35
euros a month, it is much cheaper to produce programmes there.
With the A+ launch, Canal Plus aims to further tailor its
content to local tastes. Present in Africa since 1991, it has
co-financed some local film projects and broadcast sporting
events like the soccer African Cup of Nations, allowing it to
double its subscribers from 2011 to 2013.
The pay-TV operator hopes that A+ will allow it to woo new
customers. The channel is being produced by a team of 15 people
based in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, and has a budget of "multiple
million euros" said du Puy, without being more specific.
(Writing by Leila Abboud, editing by David Evans)