French competition regulator outlines possible Canal Plus remedies

France’s competition authority has published a series of remedies to what it sees as Canal Plus’s failure to fulfill the obligations it committed to at the time of its merger with TPS and has put them out to consultation.

The French authority said its objectives were to open out the pay TV market to include a wider variety of offerings, to find alternative sources of finance following any lowering of Canal Plus’s contribution to French cinema production as a result of a breaking of the separation of its production and distribution arms, and to set a realistic timetable for remedies to be implemented.

Standing in stark contrast to its UK equivalent’s treatment of BSkyB’s alleged grip on movie rights in the UK, remedies put out to consultation to prevent Canal Plus tying up content rights include limitations on the number duration of exclusive contracts that Canal Plus can strike with studios, a proscription of this type of contract with French producers and a maintenance of Canal Plus’s obligation to treat French movie producers in a non-discriminatory way, a ban on the coupling of VOD and linear pay movie rights, including subscription VOD, a ban on all exclusive VOD rights and a ban or restrictions on Canal Plus’s ability to accumulate first and second pay TV window movie rights at the expense of competitors.

On the unbundling of movie channels, the authority is consulting on forcing CanalSat to make its premium film channels available to third party distributors, entrusting the distribution of Canal Plus-produced channels to a separate company controlled by Vivendi and making Les Chaînes Canal Plus bouquet or the Canal Plus and Canal Plus Cinéma channels available to third parties.

Also on the table is possibly forcing Canal Plus to sell its stake in the Orange Cinéma Séries channels and forcing the acquiring company to make the channels available on a non-discriminatory basis to third parties or the forced sale of the Ciné Plus Cinéma channel.

Other measures put to consultation include a possible limitation on the duration of premium football rights including Ligue 1, the European Champions League and attractive foreign championships and forbidding Canal Plus from making offerings based on the acquisition of free and pay rights together when the free and pay services are offered in a distinct way.

Also on the table are a minimum quota of independent channels on CanalSat, regulation of the amount to be paid to independent channel provicers and the ending of exclusive deals for certain channels, making other Canal Plus themed channels available to third party distributers and forcing Canal Plus to spin off its distribution activities from its production activities.

Interested stakeholders now have until June 6 to make submissions.