French broadcasters won’t team to fight Netflix

France’s leading broadcasters are unlikely to group together to form a subscription video-on-demand alliance to counter Netflix, according to Canal+ CEO Bertrand Meheut.

Speaking at a conference organised by daily Le Figaro and research group NPA Conseil, Meheut reportedly said that an SVOD offering already existed in France in the form of its own Canalplay service, which has continued to add subscribers at a rate of about 80-90% by comparison with last year.

Meheut’s comments come against the background of the call by – now former – industrial development minister Arnaud Montebourg for French media players to group together to create a rival to the US streaming media giant. Orange CEO Stéphane Richard also recently announced plans for a homegrown SVOD offering at the same time as announcing that Orange would carry Netflix on its TV set-top service.

Speaking at the same event, Richard said Canalplay, which Orange also carries, was a high-quality, competitive service and that he didn’t believe Netflix would revolutionise the VOD sector in France in the short term.

Richard said he did not want to merge Orange’s OCS service into a joint offering and he did not see an alliance between Orange, Canal+ and TF1 – the latter two historic rivals – emerging, even if such a joint offering was acceptable to the country’s competition watchdog, itself unlikely.

Meheut and Richard’s comments come as moves to loosen France’s restrictive movie windowing system to enable VOD offerings to emerge remain blocked, largely as a result of the desire of Canal+, one of the main sources of financial support for the industry, to maintain its exclusive pay TV window.

Organisations representing the French film industry have now written to the country’s minister of culture and communication, Fleur Pellerin, to press for action.

The main cinema industry groupings, the Bureau de Liaison des Industries (BLIC) and the Bureau de Liaison des Organisations du Cinéma (BLOC) have said a move to loosen up the windowing system would lead to growth in the sector and provide a real alternative to piracy, according to financial daily Les Echos, which has seen the content of the letter.

The cinema groups would also like to see more flexible windows that would see rights to movies made available for other uses if a window was not used.

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