Top French network finalizes Eurosport buyout

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Leading French television network TF1 is finalizing a planned takeover of pan-European cable television champion Eurosport, agreeing to acquire the 49.5 percent share held by pay TV leader Canal Plus, a unit of Vivendi Universal, for about $325 million.

Canal Plus is being forced to divest its Eurosport stake as part of the megamerger that led to the formation of Vivendi Universal last year as a Franco-Canadian communications, media and utility giant.

The sale will be concluded along similar lines to the May 2000 transaction during which U.S.-based ESPN, part of Walt Disney Co., sold its shares in Eurosport to TF1 and Canal Plus, the companies said. Canal Plus, itself a leading sports programmer, announced plans to create its own all-sports network to compete with Eurosport.

The Eurosport acquisition is a major feather in the cap of TF1, owned by leading French communications and industrial group Bouygues, as it gives the company full control over what most industry analysts consider the Continent's leading cable television channel. Eurosport's signal reaches an estimated audience of more than 90 million households in 54 countries, while its daily audience is believed to top 20 million consumers.

Copyright February 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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