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DHX to acquire Family Channel, three others from Bell Media

Halifax's DHX Media has announced the purchase of Family Channel, Canada's most-watched children's TV channel, and three other properties from Bell Media, for approximately $170-million.

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DHX Media Ltd., the Halifax-based production and distribution company, has struck a $170-million deal to buy the Family Channel and three Disney channels from Bell Media.

The announcement sent DHX shares soaring more than 27 per cent Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The deal to buy Family, Disney XD, Disney Junior and Disney Junior in French bolsters DHX's growing presence in family and children's programming.

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Family is the most-viewed children's channel in Canada, with about 5.7 million subscribers.

"The acquisition of these high-quality Canadian channels represents an exciting new addition to DHX, one that complements and enhances all areas of our business and positions us for our next stage of growth," DHX chief executive officer Michael Donovan said in a separate news release.

"The acquisition of these well positioned properties is expected to be materially accretive," said DHX chief financial officer Dana Landry. "It will greatly expand the scale of our business, with revenue increasing by more than 70 per cent and EBITDA by more than 90 per cent for the last 12 months on a pro-forma basis."

DHX has been active on the acquisition and deal-making front over the past several months.

In September, it bought a British company whose titles include the global hit Teletubbies.

In May, DHX became one of the first content providers to launch its own paid subscription channels on YouTube.

Other shows it owns include Inspector Gadget, Caillou and The Doodlebops.

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DHX's library of about 9,500 half-hours is one of the largest collections of children's television shows in the Western world.

The purchase is part of Bell Media's agreement to sell off several assets that came with the $3-billion acquisition of Astral Media Inc., in order to ease regulators' concerns over the potential abuse of market power.

The proposed deal is subject to the approval of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Competition Bureau.

"Bell Media welcomes DHX Media to the broadcasting industry with their acquisition of the incredible brands that are Family, Disney XD, and Disney Junior," said Kevin Crull, president of Bell Media, a division of BCE Inc.

Financing of the purchase is expected to come from an enlarged $210-million five-year term loan facility to refinance existing debt and pay part of the cash consideration, and a $30-million revolving credit facility for working capital and general corporate purposes, DHX said.

Montreal-based BCE owns a 15-per-cent stake in The Globe and Mail.

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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