French media regulator CSA sides with Orange over content exclusivity dispute

French media regulator the Conseil supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) has sided with Orange France over the dispute it finds itself embroiled in to retain the right to bundle its Orange Sport and Orange Cinéma Série channels exclusively as part of its triple-play offer, according to reports in local daily Le Figaro.

The newspaper has obtained a copy of the CSA's submission to the French competition regulator, in which the CSA points out that Orange's share of the French pay-TV market is currently at under 20%, while competitor Canal+ has a 54% share, adding that Orange has adopted the strategy of bundling exclusive content as it does not have access to distribution channels controlled by Canal+.

The CSA adds that it does not see any significant impact of Orange's bundling strategy on the French broadband market, stressing that that when filing their complaint to the French competition regulator, rival telcos Free and SFR "did not provide particulars showing a rate of termination of their most important subscriber bases since the launch of Orange channels", adding that SFR gained 150,000 new Internet subscribers in the fourth quarter of last year.

The media regulator also states that at the time of the merger between Canal+ and TPS, the competition regulator was in favour of the emergence of a pay-TV competitor, and argued that the exclusive distribution of Orange Sport should be permitted for a limited period of three or four years.

Orange France had 1.603mn digital TV customers by the end of the third quarter of 2008, of which 70,000 were subscribers to its new DTH service (with the remainder being IPTV subscribers), and recorded a 64.4% year-on-year growth for its digital TV service (IPTV and satellite) in the three month period.