France's Canal Plus has postponed a shareholder vote on its three-way merger with Vivendi and Seagram for three days from December 5 to 8, for "technical reasons". Vivendi and Seagram will still hold their shareholder meetings as planned on December 5.
In the last few weeks there have been several last-ditch attempts to oppose or regulate the merger. Most recently, the French Competition Council said it would re-examine the contracts that Canal Plus uses to acquire local films, as it believed the company could be blocking access to pay-TV rights.
Rival TPS won an unfair competition suit against Canal Plus earlier this year, claiming that it was using its dominant position to block pay-per-view rights to films it is backing. Canal Plus was fined $1.3m (FFr10m) and can be fined up to $64m (FFr500m) if the Council finds that it has not complied with the ruling.
Meanwhile, three producers associations - BLIC, BLOC and ARP - have written to French broadcasting watchdog the CSA to voice concerns that the pay-TV giant would lessen its involvement in French film production following the merger. Canal Plus pre-buys some 80% of the French titles produced each year (a $120m (FFr930m) investment in 140 films in 1999) and is consequently the French film industry's main backer.
Former Canal Plus top dog and founder Andre Rousselet expressed similar concerns in a letter to Canal Plus' staff published by French daily Le Monde last week: "What will be the effects of the planned merger of Universal Studios and StudioCanal' Will film rights acquisition for the channel's line-up be revised, and what about the involvement in production, once the new group is involved in a highly risky operation in Los Angeles'"
Canal Plus has also been hit by rumours of several impending executive departures, which Vivendi chief Jean-Marie Messier moved to quash at a meeting with staff on Wednesday night.