Televisa eyes triple play opportunities

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MEXICO CITY -- Media giant Grupo Televisa is positioning itself as a major player in Mexico's nascent triple-play market.

On the heels of the recent publication of Mexico's convergence agreement, Televisa executive vp Alfonso de Angoitia told analysts during a Friday conference call that Televisa is looking to expand its presence in the cable industry, possibly by acquiring interests in rival cablers.

"We believe there is an opportunity in terms of consolidating the cable industry in Mexico as a result of convergence," De Angoitia said.

Earlier this month, Mexico's government gave final approval to cable firms and telephone companies seeking to offer television, Internet and phone services over a single broadband connection. The bundled service is known as triple play.

As the world's largest producer of Spanish-language programming, Televisa also stands to gain from selling content to new players, such as telephone carriers planning to launch television services.

In Televisa's third-quarter report released Thursday, the nation's No. 1 network said it will invest $250 million-$500 million over the next three years in Mexico's triple-play market.

The media firm owns Cablevision, which provides cable TV service to some 475,000 subscribers in the Mexico City market. It also owns satcaster Sky Mexico.

Mexico's communications secretary has said the convergence agreement will create more competition in the cable TV and telephone industries, making the services more affordable for consumers. Critics, however, fear convergence may squeeze the smaller cablers out of the market.

A Merrill Lynch report released Friday said "convergence is likely to be a driving force for consolidation of the cable industry in Mexico."

Two weeks ago, Televisa made a move to acquire a 50% stake in Monterrey-based cabler Television Internacional. But Mexico's antitrust agency stopped the purchase, saying the deal threatened smaller cable companies in the area.

Televisa is considering a joint venture with Telmex, Mexico's dominant phone carrier. Telmex, which controls at least 90% of Mexico's fixed phone lines, has said it plans to offer cable TV service. Televisa would be one of Telmex's most likely content suppliers, though an alliance between the two companies could face regulatory hurdles.

Jose Baston, Televisa's corporate vp of television, told analysts Friday that the network plans to make a "big announcement" within two weeks based on new media strategy. The company offered no further details.
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