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Orange will not compete in premium sports, says Richard

Stéphane Richard

Stéphane Richard

Orange will not compete in premium sports by launching a new sports channel and will not be a candidate in the forthcoming auction for French football rights, according to CEO Stéphane Richard.

Speaking to analysts after Orange announced its Q2 results last week, Richard made it clear that Orange’s recent commitment to invest in content did not extend to premium sport, unlike rival service provider SFR, which is competing with Canal+ in the sports arena.

Richard said Orange had no plans to “replay the game of 2006” or “follow the example of maybe BT in the UK” by investing in high-priced sports content.

However, he said, Orange would “pay a lot of attention” to the forthcoming auction of football rights, the form and outcome of which he said was uncertain. He said Orange’s aim was to “to ensure that we have the best possible access at the best possible price to football content after 2020”, the first season covered by any new agreement.

In the meantime, said Richard, Orange would be able to offer football to its customers through its agreement with Canal+ and BeIN Sport.

Richard said that Orange did not intend to become a ‘vertically-integrated’ company with an extensive content play, despite its recent commitment to spend €100 million over the next five years through its new Orange Content division. He said that it would invest further in Orange Studio, highlighting Orange’s role as co-producer of big budget Luc Besson film Valerian.

He said that pay TV service OCS had now reached breakeven, with 2.6 million subscribers, and remained a “very attractive product”. Orange recently signed a new, exclusive deal with HBO to provide series for its channels.

Also on the analyst call, Fabienne Dulac, senior executive vice-president, Orange France, highlighted Orange’s recent deepening of its agreement with Canal+, which included renewal of a distribution deal until 2020 and, more significantly, the direct distribution by Orange of the new Canal+ Essentiel package to its subscribers, making Orange responsible for marketing, the customer relationship and billing.

The Canal+ Essentiel package builds on the existing Famille by Canal offering that Orange launched last year. Dulac said that this was performing “in line with expectations”.