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Discovery Communications, TF1 Deal Expected to Be Finalized Within Weeks

Discovery Communications Logo - H 2012

The French broadcaster is looking for a $240 million investment from the cable channel group in return for a 20 percent stake in Eurosport and other networks.

LONDON - French broadcaster TF1 said Thursday that it is continuing talks with Discovery Communications about a strategic alliance, with an agreement for an investment by the U.S cable networks group possible within weeks.

Discovery Communications could pay around $240 million to acquire a 20 percent stake in TF1's Eurosport channel and other networks, including regional station TV Breizh, Histoire, Ushuaia TV and lifestyle channel Stylia, according to the French broadcaster.

Discovery could get an option to take its stake in Eurosport to 51 percent in two years and its stake in the other networks to 49 percent, TF1 reported.

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The companies last month announced they had entered exclusive talks. TF1 CEO Nonce Paolini has been leading the talks.

The board of TF1 has now given Paolini the go-ahead to finalize negotiations with Discovery. Labor representatives are set for discussions with TF1 management on the proposal in the coming weeks.

The talks have focused on Eurosport, content opportunities in sports entertainment and documentaries, and growth opportunities, such as geographical expansion, new product launches and digital initiatives.

"We are still in exclusive negotiations with TF1," a Discovery spokeswoman said Thursday. She declined to comment further.

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With Discovery not having a big presence in France beyond two channels, a deal provides "a potential opportunity to have a bigger pay TV play in France and sell more content we own in France," Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav said at a conference last week.

Plus, Eurosport, which is available in 59 countries, would give it "a unique opportunity to reach a pan-European audience," he added. A deal would give both partners "more scale together," he said.

Zaslav declined to comment on the auction for German TV giant ProSiebenSat.1's Nordic networks business, which is currently in the final phase. A decision there is also expected soon. Discovery and Providence Equity Partners are the two remaining bidders.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai