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Bell secures HBO content as Corus rejigs

gameofthrones15_15Bell Media has secured an “unprecedented” agreement with HBO that means just one operator will offer all HBO programming for the first time in Canadian television history.

Bell’s rival Corus Entertainment will stepping back from the pay TV movies business, transferring over its HBO content licensing rights as the deal kicks in.

Subsequently, Bell will be the exclusive home for HBO programming in Canada for the foreseeable future, as part of a “comprehensive, long-term agreement”.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring all HBO programming to Canadians on whatever platform they choose,” said Mary Ann Turcke, president, Bell Media. “With this agreement, HBO’s incredible premium content will power subscriptions to Bell Media brands for many years to come.”

Bell will have rights shows such as Game of Thrones (pictured) for linear TV, on-demand platforms and OTT services in English and French.

Bell will pay Corus C$211 million (US$158.7 million) as part of the developments, which mean the latter will no longer offer pay TV channels such as Movie Central, Encore Avenue and HBO Canada in western Canada.

Those networks will continue to operate until Bell’s pay service The Movie Network launches in the region in the first quarter of 2016, at which time Corus’s western Canada pay subscribers will be automatically moved across.

“After an extensive strategic review of our business, we made the decision to strengthen our focus on one of our biggest growth opportunities, our powerful national media brands targeted to kids, women and families,” said Doug Murphy, president and CEO of Corus. “Therefore, we have decided to exit our regional pay TV business concurrent with Bell Media’s plans to expand their premium offering nationally.”

Bell this year agreed a content deal with HBO premium cable rival Showtime, and its expansion into western Canada means it can exploit that agreement across the country for the first time, including on its SVOD platform CraveTV.

Another part of the agreement will see Bell and HBO will look to coproduce original premium programming across drama, comedy and factual for the Canadian and international markets.

Several projects have already been lined up for development with prodcos Inverted Pictures/Artists Studio, Rhombus Media and Entertainment One-owned Force Four Entertainment attached to them. New HBO Comedy special featuring new and established Canadian talent are also being considered.

“The level of talent in Canada is extraordinary and we are excited about the opportunity to tap into this creative community,” said Michael Lombardo, president of programming, HBO. “In Bell Media, we have a great partner with a history of strong relationships and together I believe we will be positioned to further elevate our programming.”

“Our enhanced partnership with HBO will open doors for Canadian creators to one of the world’s most-respected innovators in the development of original content,” said Randy Lennox, who recently replaced Phil King as Bell’s president, entertainment production and broadcasting. “We can’t wait to get to work on developing the next great TV series for Canada and the world.”

Financial terms of the overall deal were not revealed, but this will likely be a a very large number seeing as it effectively stops HBO launching its HBO Now SVOD platform in Canada.

“Bell Media and HBO enjoy a partnership of shared respect and admiration,” said Charles Schreger, president, programming sales, HBO. “Together, we secured a deal that will allow both our businesses to continue to grow and evolve.”

The news comes just days after HBO secured a similar exclusive all-rights agreement with Star Channel in Japan. Sky controls broadcast rights to HBO’s content in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria.