Poland's At Entertainment and Canal Plus Polska both
said they would still like to see a merger of their satellite aspirations in Poland,
despite At Entertainment's recent withdrawal from the merger.
At Entertainment's 13-channel Wizja TV package
launched June 5 over the PTK cable system to 850,000 homes, just days after the company
said it wouldn't merge with Canal Plus.
However, last week, PTK CEO Bob Fowler said, "We are
still very interested in trying to find a way to consolidate the market, which is the best
long-term position for our business and the platforms, but it's a question of what
the deal looks like and the timing of that deal."
Fowler's comments were echoed at Canal Plus, where a
spokesperson said they were still hopeful that an agreement could be concluded.
Industry observers have speculated from the start that
Canal Plus only announced a merger with At Entertainment to slow down the launch of Wizja
TV and to gain time to launch its own, competing direct-to-home platform to complement its
premium channel in Poland.
Wizja TV was originally due to launch in mid-April, but the
proposed merger of At Entertainment and Canal Plus was announced just days before that,
and the launch was postponed.
Fowler said he is confident that At Entertainment has the
right package of programming and a strong strategy, with or without a partner.
"We have an operational platform where we are
broadcasting the entire channel package to our own cable systems," he said. "We
also have the potential to launch a direct-to-home package very quickly."
Fowler added, "We have an enormous built-in advantage,
and I think that the reason why Canal Plus wanted us was our ability to clear product into
our cable systems overnight."
The official Canal Plus line is that it is also moving
ahead with its own DTH platform (including between eight and 11 channels) for launch in
Poland in September.
That would mean another two-platform battle for Canal Plus,
repeating its current situation in France and Spain.
The next phase for At Entertainment is what Fowler called a
"soft launch" of the DTH platform on the Astra satellite system next month, with
a full, commercial launch in September.