Vivendi's Canal Plus Acquires Majority Stake in Web Producer Studio Bagel

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Less than two years old, the French YouTube comedy network operator has more than 6 million subscribers.

PARIS – French pay TV giant Canal Plus, owned by Vivendi, is adding online producer and YouTube network operator Studio Bagel to its portfolio.

After announcing the launch of 16 channels on the Internet video platform in November, the media group said on Monday that it has agreed to take a 60 percent stake in the online comedy content creator.

Studio Bagel, the first YouTube comedy network in France, produces original programming across several channels, with nearly six million subscribers and 40 million views per month since its launch in Nov. 2012. It also produces short video clips that appear before Canal Plus talk show Le Grand Journal.

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Studio Bagel founder Lorenzo Benedetti will continue as president. The firm will become part of a new mobile and web division of Canal Plus.

“We are very excited about this merger with Canal Plus Group, which will allow us to take a major step in our development,” said Benedetti. “This merger will allow us to benefit from the expertise of advertising sales [at] Canal Plus.” The studio will devote its new financial resources to developing talent and innovative film formats, he said.

“We are proud to support the development of Studio Bagel, one of the most creative startups in France,” added Canal Plus Group CEO Rodolphe Belmer. “With Studio Bagel, Canal Plus Group increases its already strong presence in the YouTube universe and its millions of users.”

The investment recognizes the pay TV giant’s focus on growing on the web. In September, the group took a minority stake in Culver City-based startup Maker Studios, the largest producer of YouTube and other online content and launched online channel Canal Factory to nurture young talents before promoting them to traditional television programs. 

The latest purchase signals that Canal Plus is adopting a diversification strategy and shoring up its free content offerings as the traditional pay TV business has reported subscriber losses. Canal Plus and CanalSat lost 355,000 subscribers in 2013.