Report: Altice to roll media assets into SFR; takes inspiration from BT

Altice founder and owner Patrick Drahi plans to turn France-based operator SFR into a fully converged telecoms and media group after being inspired by the approach taken by BT in the UK, according to reports in the French press.

Journal du Dimanche (JDD) quoted unnamed sources as saying that SFR will announce on Wednesday a merger with the print and TV media activities acquired by Altice over the past two years.

Altice did not respond to requests for comments on the report before publication.

The reports noted that the media assets in question would initially involve three newspapers - Libération, L'Express and L'Etudiant -- as well as the i24 News channel that Patrick Drahi holds personally.

More significantly, SFR is also expected to announce the takeover of Altice's 49 per cent stake in NextRadio TV, the group that owns the channels, radio stations and web sites of BFMTV, BFM Business and RMC. Altice offered around €607 million ($683 million) or €37 per share last year after agreeing a partnership with NextRadioTV CEO and majority shareholder Alain Weill.

Under the terms of the deal agreed between the two partners, Weill will ultimately own 24 per cent of an Altice unit dedicated to investments in media companies.

JDD noted that Drahi has been impressed by the approach taken by BT, which has invested massively in building up its pay-TV content with a strong emphasis on sport. It also suggested that SFR Sport could be launched as a separate channel, with a focus on broadcasting English Premier League football matches.

Last year, Altice acquired the exclusive football broadcasting rights for France and Monaco to Barclays Premier League for three seasons from 2016.

The company also recently appointed Nora Melhli, formerly head of drama at Shine France and CEO of Endemol Fiction, as head of original creation and non-linear content.

For more:
- see this JDD article (in French)
- see this Les Echos article (in French)

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