France Telecom May Sell Sports Channel to ESPN, CEO Says

France Telecom SA may sell its Orange Sport channel to U.S. television network operator ESPN Inc., Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard said.

ESPN is among possible candidates to buy the channel, along with Societe Television France 1 SA and the Ligue de Football Professionel, the top French soccer league, Richard told reporters on the sidelines of the LeWeb conference in Paris.

“They have shown an interest in entering in discussions with us,” Richard said of ESPN. “There’s no offer that’s been made, but they have expressed an interest.”

Richard, who took over as CEO from Didier Lombard in March, has signalled a break with his predecessor’s focus on developing branded content at the largest French phone company. France Telecom is currently reviewing options for its Orange Cinema Series TV channel that could lead to its merger with Vivendi SA’s Canal Plus unit.

The CEO also said the company is in discussions that could lead to a minority investment in Iraq’s Korek Telecom, which he said operates in France Telecom’s “zone of interest.”

France Telecom’s board will discuss the deal in an “informative, not decisive” manner in a meeting today, and no final decision to proceed has been made.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Campbell in Paris at mcampbell39@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net.

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