Newspaper content key to Canadian wireless deal

In either a twist on an old theme or a final grasp to save its newspapers, publishing giant Quebecor says the success of its Canadian wireless venture rests on providing "first class content" from its major French language papers in Montreal and Quebec and English language papers in other parts of the country. The service will be bundled into Quebecor's existing Videotron cable, telephony, Internet and television offerings.

The Montreal-based firm spent nearly $450 million to buy 40 MHz of wireless spectrum in Quebec and $100 million for spectrum in southern Ontario. Originally it planned to develop a national platform, but has settled for spending $800 million to $1 billion over the next three years to purchase, build and operate its own wireless service.

Quebecor chief executive Pierre Peladeau admits that its newspaper assets must "migrate efficiently to the new challenge in the distribution." Quebecor is no stranger to migration policies. In the late 1970s it created the flamboyant, sports-heavy Philadelphia Journal as a fourth competitor in the staid Philadelphia newspaper market. That venture, plagued by financial problems, spectacularly flamed out in 1981.

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