BCE completes CTV takeover; launches Bell Media

BCE Inc. closed its $3.2-billion acquisition of CTV on Friday, a full 90 days ahead of schedule. The communications giant has wasted no time releasing a new strategy, also announcing the launch of Bell Media the same day.

Kevin Crull will head the new business unit, in charge of operating CTV; broadcasting veteran Ivan Fecan has now officially stepped down as president and CEO of CTVglobemedia and CEO of CTV Inc. Crull offered some optimistic words in a presser announcing the completed takeover:

“With passion and an unrelenting commitment to excellence, Bell Media is ready to lead in Canada’s fast-changing media landscape. Our mission is to entertain, inform and inspire Canadians on the latest television, mobile and fibre-based broadband platforms.”

While some have questioned whether the acquistion will deliver all the good news it promises, originally announced in September 2010, there is plenty on paper to be happy about (although perhaps cautiously so). Bell has aleready earmarked $240-million toward “programming, job-creation, and technological benefits”, including independantly produced programming, such as documentaries and new media, and extended programming in cities across Western Canada. Good news, indeed.

And, to be fair, as The Globe and Mail‘s Susan Krashinsky reports, when the CRTC approved the deal (earlier than expected, jettisoning the takeover forward), it also ordered a moratorium on exclusive deals for TV content on mobile devices. As Krashinsky says, this means that:

“At least for now … Bell cannot offer the TV shows it owns on its mobile phones without offering it to competitors, as a way of sweetening its wireless services for customers. It also cannot approach other content owners to buy exclusive rights to video for its mobile network, as it has done in the past with the NFL, for example.”

But few moratoriums last forever. The CRTC will now hold a set of hearings in June to figure out what to do now that all the countries private broadcasters are owned by internet and TV providers. The big question: How should the industry approach programming on new platforms, such as phones and tablets, under such an ownership structure?

The ban on exclusive mobile deals will stay in place (at least) until the hearings are finished. As they say in the biz, stay tuned …