Orange and Canal+ could collaborate to acquire premium sports rights in the face of growing competition from SFR as part of a growing alignment of the pair’s interests, according to a report in French financial daily Les Echos.
Citing an unnamed source, Les Echos reported that Orange and Canal+ were in discussion around how it could help Canal+ acquire premium rights, including financially.
Rights to Formula 1 motor-racing and Champions League football are already in play, with rights to French domestic top-tier football up for auction in 2019. Altice and SFR have already indicated their interest in acquiring any available sports rights that could help it build its business.
According to Les Echos, Orange would want to participate in Canal+ in a deeper way for any deal to make sense. One idea floated is the creation of a new company to commercialise Canal+ in France, in which Orange would be a majority shareholder. The pair could separately align their interests in Africa and Poland, where both are present.
However, Les Echos points, out, there are major hurdles in the way of any deal between the groups. The French state’s interest in Orange could prevent any deal that allows the entry of Vivendi into the group’s ownership, while there could be regulatory concerns about the impact of a deal on rival fixed-line operators.
The paper said that Orange CEO Stéphane Richard told employees at the end of last month that Orange was capable of acquiring Canal+ without giving a stake to Vivendi, but that it did not have this project in mind.