French regulations responsible for CanalPlay collapse, says Saada

Restrictive rules governing the distribution of content will kill off French fiction in the international market if they remain unchanged, according to Canal+ CEO Maxime Saada, who has blamed France’s competition regulator for a disastrous fall in subscriber numbers at the pay TV operator’s SVOD service CanalPlay.

Maxime Saada

Saada, addressing a French senate committee last week, said that restrictions that meant that CanalPlay could not offer series exclusively were responsible for a collapse in the service’s subscriber numbers from 800,000 to 200,000.

He said that even thought the restriction had now been lifted, this was too late for the subscription video-on-demand service.

“While Netflix and Amazon were arriving in France, Our video-on-demand service, CanalPlay, was unable to benefit from exclusivity of distribution. This injunction, which has just been lifted, has been fatal for it, since it has shifted in the meantime from 800,000 to 200,000 subscribers,” said Saada.

“The rapidity of the change in this market has to be better taken into account by the public authorities. If nothing is done, in two years, French fiction will no longer exist internationally. Our national market is the only one that works in this way! Even with French fiction, Netflix doesn’t have to observe the rules that are imposed on us.”

Saada said that regulatory restrictions had systematically stymied Canal+ and benefited international competitors such as Netflix.

He said that media regulator the CSA had “systematically penalized” the pay TV operator by imposing disproportionate fines on the company for content rules infringements, while competition watchdog the Autorité de la Concurrence had subjected Canal+ to about 60 injunctions and requirements related to its acquisition of TPS.

Saada also said that “certain aspects” of the award of Ligue 1 football rights to Spanish broadcaster Mediapro – which he pointed out was now majority owned by a Chinese investor – appeared to him to be “abusive”, giving the Catalan player a monopolistic position.

Saada said that the proposed €25 to be charged by Mediapro for its service will be higher than the equivalent price charged by Canal+ while it still holds the rights, and said that a secondary market based on new sublicensing rules would have to emerge.

“I don’t see how Mediapro will be in a position to profit from its investment, without having distributors at its side,” he said.

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