Altice in talks over TVI owner Media Capital

Cable and telecom group Altice is in ‘exploratory discussions’ with Iberian media group Prisa to take over the parent company of Portuguese national broadcaster TVI.

Confirming the talks following a request by the Portuguese Securities Market Commission, the Commissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários, Altice said that it was discussing the potential acquisition of Prisa’s stake in Media Capital.

Luxembourg-based Altice has been one of the most active TV companies in the past year, moving into the US through a multi-billion dollar deal for cable company Cablevision and a subsequent IPO this month that raised US$1.9 billion, and launching content arm Altice Studios in an original push.

Lisbon-based Media Capital owns leading TV station TVI, which operates the flagship channel, news channel TVI24 and thematic channels TVI Ficción and TVI Reality, as well as international services TVI Internacional and TVI África. It also owns internet portal IOL and a number of radio stations and press titles.

Prisa owns a 94% stake in Media Capital. According to local press, the Spanish media group is looking for between €400 million-450 million (US$447 million-US$559 million) for the group, although some observers consider this to be an unrealistically high price.

Altice’s interest in Media Capital indicates that it wants to combine ownership of content assets with distribution networks in Portugal on the model followed in France with SFR. In Portugal, Altice owns Meo/PT Telecom, the leading telco in the country.

However, a move to take control of TVI could face regulatory hurdles. Rival service provider NOS’s chief executive Miguel Almeida last year told local newspaper Expresso that if Altice took control of Media Capital and the country’s regulators took no action, there would be “war” to ensure that the leading broadcaster’s content remained accessible to his subscribers.

Almeida said it was vertical integration of service providers and TV broadcasters such as TVI or the country’s other leading commercial player, SIC, was “not welcome” and that he expected any such deal to be blocked.

Last year, Portugal’s service providers were involved in a bitter battle over the exclusivity of top-tier football rights, which was eventually resolved when, after a series of indicatives driven by NOS, the main players agreed a reciprocity deal and joint ownership of the Sport TV channel to ensure that all matches would be available to subscribers of the different operators.