Roverato: Orange will continue to seek content rights

Orange will continue to seek to differentiate its IPTV service in France through the acquisition of exclusive content rights while pay-TV provider Canal Plus remains a dominant presence in the space, provided it is permitted by regulators to do so, according to Raoul Roverato, executive vice-president of growth businesses at Orange.

However, Roverato said that Orange would not try to renew its exclusive football rights deal for the Orange sport service unless it could be certain that it would not have to share the rights with competitors.

Following a keynote presentation at the IPTV World Forum on the ways that IPTV service providers could differentiate their offers, Roverato told the DTVE Daily that Orange had decided to go after exclusive sports and movie rights primarily to challenge Canal Plus’s stranglehold on content. “We always said when we went for exclusive rights that we did not want to be a pure media company,” he said. “We went after premium content because Canal Plus had a monopoly on pay-TV content.”

Without a wider regulation of the French pay-TV market as a whole, Roverato said, Orange had little choice but to continue down the exclusive rights path.
Last month Xavier Couture, head of content at Orange France, told the Les Echos newspaper that the company plans to continue investing in content for its premium channels during 2010, although it was understood that the group’s content strategy could be reviewed in 2012.  Last year, Orange won a reprieve following a legal challenge by competitors about its bundling of access to premium content with broadband access. The telco is believed to have spent as much as €400m on the acquisition of exclusive sports, movies and TV series rights for its pay-TV services, delivered via IPTV, satellite and mobile TV.

Roverato said that Orange would in the future face a competitive threat from the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft, but that it (and other telcos) had the advantage of a strong relationship with their end customers and their strength in particular geographies. “It’s going to be a dynamic environment,” he said.  In his keynote speech, Roverato said that people would increasingly look to access services through all screens. “The battle for the telco is the battle for consumers’ eyeballs and we have to be on all screens,” he said. “There is a key differentiator. To aggregate a TV service is dependent on the region you [operate] in. It’s something Google can’t do.”

Roverato said Orange would continue to develop new services for its international markets on a “pragmatic” basis. Where full managed IPTV services were not practical, it may look to offer other added-value services.

Orange France currently has about 663,000 subscribers to its own premium channels, out of an overall total of 1.5 million pay-TV customers and 3.2 million IPTV subscribers globally.

Roverato won the special merit award for outstanding contribution to the industry at Tuesday night’s IPTV World Series Awards.