Canal Plus expands into Vietnam

Platform seeks 1 mil subscribers in three years

PARIS -- French pay TV group Canal Plus will expand its audio-visual empire into Vietnam with an unprecedented joint venture with Vietnamese public TV group VTV, both groups announced at a news conference here.

The pay TV platform has been given the green light by Vietnamese authorities after more than five years of discussions, and is expected to launch at the end of November or early December.

The offer will include 20 local and international channels, all translated into Vietnamese. VTV will hold a 51% stake in the new joint venture, and Canal Plus 49%, with Canal Plus to assure operational management via its international subsidiary Canal Overseas.

Canal Plus is already present on five continents via Canal Overseas' seven satellite positions and boasts more than 2 million subscribers outside of France, which generate about 20% of the group's total annual income.

"International development is a priority for the Canal Plus group," president of the Canal Plus group Bertrand Meheut said at the news conference.

Canal Plus is hoping the new Vietnamese pay TV platform will attract 1 million subscribers over the next three years.

The Canal Plus-VTV venture will be based in Hanoi, with technical centers in Vinh Yen. The new Franco-Vietnamese holding will house 30 employees for the launch, and Canal Plus plans to expand to 200 by 2010. VTV currently houses six national terrestrial channels, in addition to its satellite subsidiary VCTV.

"Vietnam is one of the most dynamic countries in Southeast Asia, even during this difficult period," Meheut said.

With 86 million inhabitants in Vietnam, 95% of whom watch TV on a regular basis, Canal Plus is hoping for strong results in the developing Asian market.

"Our objective is to be the pay TV leader in Vietnam," Meheut said, specifying that the Vietnamese venture isn't part of a broader plan to expand Canal Plus' reach throughout Asia. He added: "We're not closing any doors, of course. We do realize that satellites in Vietnam will allow us to branch out further."

The partnership with VTV marks the Canal Plus group's first steps outside of Europe and the francophone market in Africa.