France’s TF1 & M6 to sell channels to Altice to secure merger deal approval

France’s TF1 and M6 and Altice Media have begun exclusive negotiations for the sale of two key entertainment channels owned by the broadcasters to Patrick Drahi’s group.

TF1 is in talks to sell its TFX channel to Altice if TF1’s merger deal with M6 is approved.

The sale will be conditional on approval of the merger by France’s competition and media regulators. With the merger now expected to go through at the start of 2023, TFX will remain under TF1’s control throughout this year.

M6 meanwhile has granted exclusive negotiation rights to Altice Media for the sale of 6ter, also conditional on approval of the merger being granted.

The pair said the sale of female-focused entertainment channel, TFX, formerly known as NT1, and entertainment channel 6ter would help the combined group comply with French legislation by avoiding it being in the position of owning more than seven DTT channels.

M6 also plans to return the DTT frequency currently held by its Paris Première channel to the state in order to comply with the rules. However, Paris Première will continue to be owned by the combined group and will broadcast on cable and satellite.

TF1 said that a deal would help competition in French broadcasting by strengthening an established player that already operates three national channels on DTT.

The two broadcasters have chosen to retain their most important channels on the terrestrial platform, namely TF1’s TMC and M6’s W9 and Gulli.

Altice boss Drahi had earlier indicated his broad support for the merger of TF1 and M6 and had signalled his interest in acquiring channels from the broadcasters to enable them to comply with the rules.

Rival telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel, owner of Iliad Telecom/Free, has by contrasted strongly opposed the merger and has sought to have the case taken over by European competition regulators rather than what he sees as an overly compliant French watchdog.

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