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Telus may be marginalized without content

MONTREAL - Telecom company Telus may find itself marginalized in Internet-based TV, online and mobile services without content to put on these platforms like its major competitors BCE, Rogers and Shaw.

MONTREAL - Telecom company Telus may find itself marginalized in Internet-based TV, online and mobile services without content to put on these platforms like its major competitors BCE, Rogers and Shaw.

Telus is the only major carrier without media assets, analysts said Monday, noting that the Vancouver-based company is left in a tough position.

"Telus has a content gap," Scotia Capital analyst Jeffrey Fan said.

"Telus is the only distributor without any control over its future access to content or its cost. When content ownership did not all rest with the competitors, Telus's partnership position made sense," Fan wrote in a research note.

The parent company of Bell Canada (TSX:BCE) is set to buy the rest of CTV it didn't already own for $1.3 billion and Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX:SJR.B) is acquiring Canwest Global's TV assets in a deal worth more than $2 billion.

Both deals are pending approval, but are expected to close this year, giving each group a source of programming for TV, websites and mobile devices.

RBC Capital markets analyst Jonathan Allen likened the build-up of media assets to a cold war.

"With a cold-war style of build-up of media assets happening among the Canadian distributors, independent carriers like Telus may find themselves marginalized in IPTV (Internet Protocol television), mobile and online," Allen wrote in a note.

Telus couldn't not be reached for comment on Monday.

New wireless player Videotron has access to French content via its parent company Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B), which owns TV stations and numerous publications as well as flagship newspaper, Le Journal de Montreal.

Fan said BCE, Rogers, Videotron and Shaw customers should each have diverse content available with select exclusivity.

"There may be some exclusivity on the richness of the content but full-blown exclusivity will not likely materialize given the risk of regulatory scrutiny and consumer backlash."

Allen noted that Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) recently pulled its Blue Jay baseball games from competitor networks like Bell and is now offering Jays' games as exclusive content.

Astral (TSX:ACM.A) Media Inc., which owns pay TV and specialty TV channels, may become a target for Telus and Rogers.

"Astral is now the last sizable independent media company in Canada and both Rogers and Telus should be interested in bulking up their own media assets in our view," Allen said.

BCE chief executive George Cope has said the deal to acquire the rest of CTV will provide content for Bell's platforms, but he also acknowledged that his company will be buying and selling content with rivals.

Allen said the deal allows Bell to maintain access from competitors Shaw, Rogers and Quebecor. For example, he said BCE could "threaten to pull" TSN/RDS hockey games away from Videotron if the Quebec-based provider doesn't give Bell access to its French content.

Also on Monday, Bell also announced long-awaited launch of its fibre-optic Internet protocol television service in Toronto and Montreal, competing further with its cable TV rivals.

Shares in Telus were down nine cents at $43.04 at the close of trading Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.