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Canal+ reportedly eyeing deal with Free on model of Orange partnership

Canal+ is looking to strike a deal with Iliad Telecom/Free to provide a bundled offering of internet access and pay TV channels on the model of its recent agreement with Orange, according to French financial daily Les Echos.

Les Echos reported that Canal+ has been pursuing discussions with Free to conclude an agreement on the same lines as its deal with Orange, without citing sources.

The paper said that rumours of such a deal have been widely circulating in the sector, with the expectation that something will be announced in the next few days.

Canal+ currently has a direct relationship with subscribers who take its services via one of France’s IPTV providers, who receive a commission for each subscription. This arrangement has hitherto worked to the satisfaction of both the pay TV operator and distribution partners – with the exception of SFR, which has complained about the practice to the French competition watchdog.

However, it now appears that Canal+ would like a closer partnership with telecom operators to bundle pay TV and broadband access as part of an overall drive to arrest the decline of its domestic French subscriber base.

The partnership with Orange – and Free, if it comes to pass – would also enable the latter to compete more effectively against SFR, which has recently adopted a strategy of investing in exclusive content offerings to differentiate its proposition.

Speaking to analysts after Vivendi revealed half-year results last week, Canal+’s parent’s CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine said that “development on visibility also means partnerships with telco operators”, adding that the pay TV operator and Orange would launch a joint offering by the end of this year, comprising Orange fibre and “a selection” of Canal+ and Canalsat channels.

De Puyfontaine added that “new offers could be announced later this year to better address consumer needs and behaviours”.

Questioned on this point, De Puyfontaine said that he didn’t envisage a “one size fits all” template for deals with other operators, but said that Vivendi was keeping open “the possibility to get other partnerships that may arise in the foreseeable future”.