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Free signals strong opposition to Salto streaming plan

homepInternet service provider Free has communicated its vehement opposition to parts of the French broadcasters’ plans for streaming platform Salto to the competition watchdog currently assessing the project, according to a report by Le Monde.

According to the paper, Free has sent a letter to the Autorité de la Concurrence outlining its concerns about plans to offer the broadcasters’ live channels on the platform, in addition to video-on-demand.

Le Monde reports that Free has denounced the plan to distribute the country’s main channels on the digital platform as the creation of a “cartel” that will disadvantage other distributors.

According to Free, Salto, by providing a platform for channels that account for 80% of the national audience, will effectively have a stranglehold on access to them.

Free is reportedly far from being assuaged by commitments recently made by the broadcasters to secure a regulatory green light for Salto. These concessions include providing access to the channels on a non-exclusive basis at non-discriminatory prices. However, according to the letter sent by the ISP, as cited by Le Monde, Free believes that the television groups will have a clear incentive to hike up the prices paid for carriage by Salto, giving them further leverage in negotiations with ISPs.

Free’s opposition follows a bitter battle over several years between ISPs and commercial broadcasters TF1 and M6 over the terms of carriage for their channels. That dispute ended with a victory for the broadcasters, which were able to levy financial contributions from the ISPs in exchange for carriage of their channels and associated digital services.

OTT TV platform Molotov has also expressed its opposition to the project, according to Le Monde. The OTT provider has reportedly compared the project to being akin to a combination of France’s three leading supermarket chains, Leclerc, Monoprix and Carrefour.

Molotov has been in dispute with TF1 over its failure to strike a new deal to distribute the latter’s channels on its platform following the expiry of its previous agreement at the end of June.

According to Le Monde’s report, other ISPs are either more sanguine or have declined to comment. Orange has asked the Autorité de la Concurrence to ensure that it will be able to distribute Salto without minimum guarantees. Bouygues Telecom, which declined the paper’s request for comment, has shared ownership with TF1, while Altice France/SFR, which also declined to comment, is currently demanding carriage fees for its own channels from rival ISPs.