Orange does not want to acquire Canal+, according to CEO Stéphane Richard. Interviewed on the Good Morning Business show on BFM TV, Richard said Canal+ was an important partner and that Orange was a key distributor of the latter’s content.
Richard said that to his knowledge, Canal+ was not for sale, and there were no discussions in progress about a potential sale. He said the pair were discussing deeper cooperation both inside and outside France.
There has been considerable speculation about the possibility of Orange acquiring the pay TV operator. Speaking at a conference in Morocco in December, Richard said Orange “would definitely look into it” if Canal+ was up for sale.
Orange and Canal+ last year struck a deal that saw Canal+ content provided as part of a bundled offering from Orange for the first time.
Richard said Orange was paying close attention to the distribution of Ligue 1 football rights and that it was important that his customers were not deprived of the ability to view Ligue 1 matches. However, he said Orange had no intention of launching its own premium sports offering, on the model of rival SFR.
Asked about SFR’s emergence as a key player in the market for premium sports rights and the threat this posed, Richard drew a comparison with Telefónica in Spain, which held key football rights that Orange had access to, despite the pair being competitors.
French financial daily Les Echos reported earlier this month that Orange was in talks with Canal+ about how to help it acquire premium rights. According to the paper, Orange would seek a deeper participation in Canal+, possibly through the creation of a new company to commercialise the pay TV service in France, as a condition of any deal that involved it financing the acquisition of sports rights.
Richard was speaking to BFM TV after year-end results that saw its TV customer base in increase by 6.9% year-on-year to reach 8.5 million customers across Europe.
In France, Orange had 6.609 million TV customers, down from 6.423 million a year earlier. However, fixed broadband ARPU grew by 0.8% in the year to December, reflecting the growing share of fibre and premium services and the development of TV content offerings. Convergent offers represented 57% of the retail fixed broadband customer base at December 31.
In Spain, take-up of TV services increased sharply, with 507,000 customers at the end of the year, up 1.7 times year-on-year.
Orange Belgium had 33,400 Internet and IPTV convergent customers at the end of the year. Belgium and Luxembourg together had 40,000 TV customers, up from 4,000 a year earlier.
Orange’s central European operations including Poland, Slovakia and Moldova had 507,000 TV customers at the end of the year, up from 366,000 a year earlier. Orange Moldova had 100,000 TV customers at the end of the year.
In Europe outside France as a whole, fixed broadband revenues rose 7.7% in the fourth quarter after rising 4.8% in the third quarter, boosted by the rapid development of fibre and TV content offers in Spain.