Mediaset cool on Al Jazeera, Canal+ alliance reports

Mediaset has played down reports that it is on the brink of forging a wide-ranging pay TV alliance with Al Jazeera and Canal+ Group by saying that detailed discussions of its pay TV plans are still in progress and will be reviewed by its board and that of Mediaset España at their next meeting.

The group said that it has not excluded the potential inclusion of foreign partners.

Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported yesterday that Mediaset had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Al Jazeera that could see the latter take a stake in Mediaset Premium, the Italian broadcaster’s pay TV offering.

According to Il Sole 24 Ore, Al Jazeera executives are set to meet with Mediaset at its offices on May 10 to perform due diligence.

The financial daily reported that Al Jazeera and Canal+ plan to take stakes in Mediaset Premium with a view to extending into other international markets later, creating a pay TV alliance that could take on the power of 21st Century Fox.

Mediaset revealed last December that its board and that of its Spanish subsidiary would evaluate the creation of a single standalone pay TV company for the entire group that would include 100% of Mediaset Premium and Mediaset’s 22% stake in Spain’s Digital+.

The group said at the time that the evaluation exercise would examine international development potential, the expansion of OTT services and the “eventual involvement of industrial and/or financial partners in the newco”.

Il Sole 24 Ore said the prospective alliance with Al Jazeera and Canal+ – major rivals in pay TV in the French market – was a major factor underpinning Mediaset’s February acquisition of UEFA Champions League football rights, reportedly for between €600 to €700 million. That deal gave the Italian broadcaster the exclusive free and pay TV rights to the tournament for the 2015-18 seasons.