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Orange faces fresh threat to exclusive rights

France Telecom/Orange faces a renewed threat to its exclusive sport and movies TV rights following the delivery of a government-commissioned report on the issue to prime minister François Fillon.

The report by Marie-Dominque Hagelsteen, president of the public works section of the Conseil d’Etat, has recommended legislation that would regulate exclusive distribution of pay-TV content, to be overseen by telecom watchdog ARCEP.

The report was commissioned with the case of Orange in mind. The telco has bundled exclusive sport and movie services as part of its triple-play offer. Last year, the French competition regulator called for legislative moves to fix clear rules forbidding ISPs from restricting access to content to their own subscribers for more than one or two years at most.

The Hagelsteen report accepts this view, arguing that Orange’s current strategy poses a risk to competition in the very high-speed internet market, among other things, but rejects the competition authority’s proposed remedies in favour of fresh legislation that would give ARCEP regulatory power to prevent exclusive offers.

The report makes it likely that Orange will be forced to change the way it markets pay-TV services, which include exclusive Ligue 1 football rights and exclusive rights to HBO series and Warner Bros movies. The company’s competitors, pay-TV provider Vivendi and triple-play provider Iliad Telecom, have lobbied hard against its practices.