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TVA looks to expand across Canada

MONTREAL (CP) _ Quebec media company TVA Group Inc. is looking to the rest of Canada for expansion now that its magazines and television shows are nearing saturation in the province, CEO Pierre Dion said Friday.

"We have reached a certain maturity in Quebec with high penetration in magazines and in television," Dion told shareholders at the annual shareholders’ meeting.

"We’re going to continue to look at specialized chains in Quebec because there’s good progression there. Logically, what remains for us is expansion in English Canada," he said.

The move into the rest of Canada comes as TVA Group earned $936,000 in the first quarter of 2007, compared with a year-ago loss of $2.7 million. The profit represented three cents per diluted share, compared with a 10-cent loss in 2006.

The subsidiary of Quebecor Media also announced Friday its revenues grew by 2.6 per cent to $93.3 million in the period ended March 31, while expenses decreased marginally to $90.6 million.

The Montreal-based company said its improved results were attributable primarily to a 52.6 per cent growth in specialty services operating income, a $2.6-million income gain in the television sector, a 21 per cent increase in TVA Network income and significant improvement in profitability in the publishing sector.

Dion said his company started expanding into the rest of Canada two years ago with Toronto One, which is now Sun TV. He noted that in Quebec his company creates its own television content, whereas in the rest of Canada most of the shows are American. Dion said that expansion outside Quebec will mean creating content and used Canoe Live as an example of a homegrown multimedia news and current events show.

Dion said it’s important that any content created can be used by multimedia consumers. With magazines, the TVA Group has 44 titles in Quebec and Dion said expansion will now come in the rest of the country. However, the TVA Group said its distribution sector’s losses grew by $2.1 million.

"Given the challenges we are facing, we are generally satisfied with the company’s financial results for the first quarter of 2007," Dion said. "Our strategic plan of reducing operating expenses is well underway."

Higher revenues and lower expenses decreased the operating loss of its Toronto SUN TV station by 31 per cent. TVA’s board approved a five cent dividend, payable June 5 to Class A and B shareholders of record as of May 21.

TVA Group is an integrated communications company involved in television, production and distribution of audio-visual products, and in magazine publishing. It operates the largest French-language conventional television network in Quebec. Company shares were down 25 cents to $16 at the close of trading Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.