With great power comes great responsibility. Canal+ Group has received the conditional approval from the anti-trust board to acquire Orange Studio and OCS, the film and pay TV operations of Orange, France’s leading telco group.
Canal+ has committed to a number of remedies for an initial duration of five years in order to get the regulatory green light and address concentration concerns.
The acquisition of OCS by Canal+ could have large ramifications on the local film industry because both players represent the top two sources of pre-financing for French movies. Canal+ is currently on a three-year deal (until the end of 2024) with film guilds to invest an average of €200 million per year in French and European cinema. OCS, meanwhile, has a deal with producers to invest €20 million annual investment in local pics.
Under the plans presented to the regulatory commission, OCS will be combined with Cine+, one of Canal+’s channels, but it will continue to operate independently. Canal+ has pledged to maintain separate purse strings for OCS/Cine+ to continue acquiring movies for first-window rights, as well as having a separate acquisition team. Canal+ has also committed to having OCS/Ciné+ pre-buy a minimum of 25 French film projects over the next five years, including at least four French film projects per year (and one project budgeted under €4 million).
In recent years, OCS has pre-bought many movies that were turned down by Canal+, for instance “Bernadette,” the critically acclaimed movie with Catherine Deneuve playing former first lady Bernadette Chirac, and “Planet B,” a politically minded dystopian film starring Adele Exarchopoulos and Souheila Yacoub.
Aside from Canal+, French producers have limited options to pre-finance movies in France. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are bound to play a larger role due to their investment obligations in local content, but the anti-trust said in its decision that “subscription-based streaming services don’t represent real and potentially sufficient alternatives to (Canal+ and OCS), notably in terms of diversity.”
Canal+ Group, whose parent company is Vivendi, already owns 33.3% of OCS, the pay-TV arm of Orange, and has been distributing the service on its platform as part of its cable bundle since 2011.
Orange Studio, meanwhile, is the content division in charge of co-producing, selling abroad and distributing select films in France. The company distributed Florian Zeller’s “The Father” and “The Son” in France.
Canal+ has come a long way with France’s anti-trust board. In 2011, the board had blocked Canal+ Group’s attempt to merge with OCS and launch a premium pay TV channel. But that was before the arrival of streaming services in France. Netflix, which launched in late 2014, now has more subscribers than Canal+ (9.8 million locally), and OCS (approximately 2.9 million subscribers).
Canal+’s also recently took a 12% stake in Viaplay, the financially troubled Scandinavian streaming platform. Its other streaming assets include South Africa’s Multichoice Group, Hong Kong-based OTT service Viu International.