Canada's Bell Gets Competition Bureau OK for $3.38 Billion Astral Media Takeover

The regulatory approval is contingent on a series of asset sales, including stakes in ABC Spark and a host of Canadian-based Disney channels.

TORONTO -- Canadian phone giant Bell has secured approval from the Competition Bureau to complete a $3.38 billion takeover of indie broadcaster Astral Media.

The approval from the arm's-length government agency on competition grounds will leave Bell with eight pay and specialty TV services, 77 radio stations and Astral's out-of-home advertising business.

The regulatory OK is contingent on Bell making a series of asset sales. Those include a series of deals unveiled Monday that involve rival broadcaster Corus Entertainment as it acquires six TV channels and two radio stations for $400.6 million.

And Bell will sell the English-language Family Channel, which includes Disney channels in Canada, and the French-language Disney Junior, Musimax and MusiquePlus services, through a pending auction process.

Bell still requires separate regulatory approval from the CRTC, Canada's TV regulator, which denied an earlier application to acquire Astral Media on competition grounds. 

The phone giant, which owns and operates a separate Bell Media broadcast division, has submitted a second application for CRTC approval of the deal.

The immediate asset sale agreements with Corus extend its hold on the Canadian kids TV space by allowing it to acquire stakes in ABC Spark and Teletoon that it does not already own.

In separate deals, Corus reached an agreement with Bell to acquire a remaining 50 percent stake in Teletoon, the Canadian kids cable channel. Corus also acquired two Ottawa-based radio stations that Bell is poised to acquire should its takeover deal for Astral Media get a green light from the CRTC.

Corus also reached another deal with Bell and Shaw Media to acquire each of their 50 percent stakes in the French-language specialty channels Historia and Series+.

With these acquisitions, Teletoon and its French-language counterpart, Teletoon Retro and its French-language counterpart, and Cartoon Network Canada will be wholly owned by Corus, pending regulatory approvals.

And a third deal has Corus acquiring a remaining 49 percent stake in ABC Spark that it does not already own, this time from Shaw Media.

As part of the agreement, Corus will sell its 20 percent interest in Food Network Canada to Shaw Media, which operates the Global Television network and a slew of cable channels.