Things happened in 2023. Seen from Quebec, we can say that Quebecor, the TVA Group and their big boss, Pierre Karl Péladeau, are like a mirror in which we can see several of the main economic highlights and technology of the last year.
Despite the bad news from the media and overall modest growth on the stock market, 2023 was “a very good year” for Quebecor, observes from the outset analyst Jérôme Dubreuil of Securities Desjardins. “The actions taken by Pierre Karl Péladeau on a personal basis this year were more significant than in the past,” adds the analyst, “but the purchase of Freedom by Quebecor is transformational. It changes the telecommunications ecosystem in the country. It’s a bold move. »
Pierre Karl Péladeau has not seen his personal fortune jump this year. It was estimated at 2.3 billion at the start of 2023. It would be 2.6 billion at Christmas. But that could change, and for the better, in 2024.
First, in his capacity as President and CEO of Quebecor and President and CEO of TVA Group (on an interim basis for two years now), Mr. Péladeau and his colleagues at the head of other media companies have been involved in a case that marked the news in Quebec, in Canada, and perhaps elsewhere in the world.
Because the 100 million deal of dollars and more per year that occurred at the last minute at the end of November between Google and the Government of Canada regarding the financing of news rooms will be closely analyzed elsewhere in the world, such as in California and in Europe. In the immediate future, it will help more than one Canadian print media, including Quebecor Media newspapers.
That said, it is above all the fate of TVA which has probably had the most profound impact on the year 2023 in the Quebec media sector. The 547 layoffs announced by the broadcaster at the beginning of November constituted the largest in a series of very non-voluntary departures carried out during the fall by several media groups in the province.
Like the written press before it, Quebec television is these days in the grip of American digital platforms, from Apple to Netflix to Disney. TVA, the general channel, is not immune to the phenomenon. Neither do the TVA Group’s specialized channels.
The problem is not just digital. The creation of TVA Sports then a costly broadcasting agreement obtained from the National Hockey League in November 2013 experienced a sort of denouement last spring when Pierre Karl Péladeau admitted in barely veiled words that this risk will ultimately have cost more expensive than expected. “Was it a risky bet?” Not necessarily,” he assures, however, in an interview with Duty. At least, not at the time.
Since then, the failure of a professional hockey team to return to Quebec has added to the sports channel’s woes, then the disagreement over the royalties paid by Bell to distribute TVA Sports has driven another nail into its longer-term viability. .
The agreement with the NHL ends in 2025-2026. Mr. Péladeau would be eager so that we would not be surprised. He acquired the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and this seems to open new avenues both for TVA Sport on the TV side and for Quebecor on the digital side. Thanks to its acquisition of the Freedom Mobile wireless network, 2023 is also the year that Quebecor becomes a national telecommunications operator.
A digital shift is a project that the CFL will need to address sooner rather than later. Quebecor will be an interested partner. The GAFAM offensive in live sport is another highlight of 2023. Talk about it to TVA Sports, which lost its CF Montreal soccer matches after Apple regained the broadcast of all the matches of its league, MLS. It is now RDS which broadcasts a handful of local CF matches.
Canadian football does not have the scale of association football – the expression of which students at Oxford at the end of the 19the century derived the term soccer. The popular and highly unexpected fall success of the Alouettes still opens new horizons.
In terms of football, it would be a successful catch in the touchdown zone in a third down situation, on the last play of the game no less, if Quebecor, TVA and the CFL manage to create a viable digital broadcast model despite competition from the NHL, MLS, NFL, NBA for spectator attention and foreign digital platforms for their money.
“It will take experimentation, but we will see how things evolve,” says Pierre Karl Péladeau.
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Its acquisition of Videotron in February
2000 transformed Quebecor from a media company to a cable company. Its subsequent expansion into Internet services and residential telephony transformed it into Quebec’s telecommunications leader, alongside Bell. Its purchase last April of the Freedom Mobile wireless network, present west of the Ottawa River, increased the number of Quebecor wireless customers from 1.4 to 4 million.
Above all, this brings Quebecor back to the national scene for the first time since 2014, when it divested itself of the media properties outside Quebec of its subsidiary Sun Media, acquired in 1998. “We have always been an operator, but here we have the ability to offer our services to all Quebecers and Canadians,” explains Pierre Karl Péladeau.
The emergence of Quebecor as the fourth national wireless network closes several chapters in a saga that dates back at least to 2004, when Rogers acquired the Montreal network Fido. Quebecor had demonstrated its interest at the time, but did not have the means to outbid its Toronto rival. Successive federal governments had to create almost perfect conditions for new players to appear in this market: reserve wireless frequencies, open the market for the resale of Internet bandwidth, etc.
It’s obviously not over. Ottawa also created the conditions in 2023 that will allow Quebecor in particular
to offer home Internet and TV to Freedom customers in certain provinces, in addition to wireless.
Wireless, Internet, hockey, Canadian football and soccer. Themes which have weighed heavily in Canada over the last twelve months, and which today make Quebecor and its big boss, Pierre Karl Péladeau, a little more influential.