Altice’s Weill calls ‘opening of debate’ on net neutrality

Europe must “stop being naïve” in the face of aggressive competition from US and Chinese internet giants that have build global businesses on the back of net neutrality and it is important to “open the debate” on making them pay network operators to transport their data, according to Alain Weill, CEO of Altice France.

Alain Weill

Weill told French financial daily Les Echos that Google, YouTube and Netflix accounted for 80% of data traffic on SFR’s network and that network operators were financing the construction of fibre networks for the benefit of US internet companies that did not pay the same level of taxes in France as local telecom operators.

He said it was necessary to “open the debate” on remunerating telecom operators to transport content and to adapt net neutrality rules to “the reality of the digital revolution”. He said that net neutrality had become a “formidable tool” to enable the expansion of the GAFA group of US tech giants – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – which capture all the value of the data delivered over networks built by the likes of SFR.

Weill also told Les Echos that there was an urgent need for a reform of France’s outdated audiovisual regulations to permit, for example, personalised addressable advertising on television, or cede the market to the GAFA companies.

In a wide-ranging interview, Weill said that Altice France invested €1 billion in audiovisual content, more than leading commercial broadcaster TF1.

He said that the operator wants to provide a complete football offering to its subscribers via its recently rebranded RMC Sport channel, and that it is open to a deal with Mediapro, recent winner of rights to Ligue 1 football for the next three seasons.

Weill said that Altice was open to deals to distribute RMC Sport, which holds the exclusive rights to Champions League football, to other operators but that it was “not under pressure” to do so. He said research had indicated that “several hundreds of thousands” of subscribers were ready to change provider to secure 100% of football.

Weill said that his company had identified several potential partners for its Altice Studio premium series and movies offering, following reports last month that it was close to a deal with Orange to fold this service into the latter’s OCS offering.

He said that Altice remained open to invest in cinema production in France, despite an unfavourable regulatory environment regarding distribution, if it could “mutualise the investment”.

Weill said that Altice founder Patrick Drahi was “absolutely not a seller” of SFR, despite market rumours that such a sale might be in the offing. He said that the comapy was cash-flow positive and was continuing to invest in its network build-out.

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