Canal+ and Orange TV: The fight begins

Orange TV is investing millions in order to attack Canal Plus' pay-TV monopoly.

Challenging France's existing pay-tv monopoly with significant investment into cinema and sports premium TV contents, France Télécom's Orange brand is typically - though denying it - unofficially declaring war against incumbent Canal+.

The Orange TV announcement made at the MIPtv market in Cannes to launch Orange's Cinema premium TV offer, and which will be available on TV, PC and mobile phones, is more than worrying for French pay-tv group Canal+. At MIPtv Orange TV's General Director Rodolphe Belmer said Orange was "reconstituting a mini TPS Star" (referring to the former TPS premium offer that was based on both soccer rights and movies), and that now belongs to Canal+ Group after the CanalSat/TPS merger.

According to Orange TV, the new obvious competition with wealthy telco France Telecom needs now to be made on equal terms. "We are no more a monopoly. This new deal should have consequences in terms of competition rights," said Belmer, seen to suggest that logically the Canal+ restraints imposed by the TPS/CanalSat merger should be revised, and looked at again.

Canal+ Group, whose pay-TV channel Canal+ devotes 12% of its annual turnover to French film production, is also asking France Télécom to also contribute to the overall economy of France's audiovisual sector, and more specifically to put cash into French production as Canal Plus is obliged to do.

During its MIPtv presentation, Didier Lombard, France Télécom's CEO indirectly answered that his company will respect all "obligations in terms of European production," as he pointed out that its investment subsidiary Studio 37 already injects money into 10 to 15 movies a year.

Regarding the current agreements with some of the US major studios, the battle is also seen as starting between Canal+ and France Télécom over upcoming rights. Canal, for example, has secured long-term rights with Fox, Sony, Universal, Paramount and Dreamworks. But not with independent studios.