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Canal+ rows back on free-to-view move

French pay TV operator Canal+ has rowed back on its decision to de-encrypt its channels in the face of the Coronavirus crisis after other French audiovisual industry players raised concerns.

Over the weekend, Canal+ re-encrypted the Canal+ Family, Canal+ Cinéma, Canal+ Sport and Canal+ Decalé channels.

The broadcaster said that it would continue to offer the flagship Canal+ channel and Canal+ Séries free-to-view until March 31 “as planned”, when these services will also be re-encrypted.

The pay TV broadcasters said it was also making the spy thriller Le Bureau des Légendes available free-to-view for the first time. All seasons of the Mathieu Kassovitz-starring series, which first aired on Canal+ in 2015, will be broadcast on linear TV and the first season will be made available free-to-view on the MyCanal online service.

Canal+’s decision to partially row back on the overall free-to-air decision came after the French audiovisual industry reacted unfavourably to the move, with Pascal Rogard, CEO of authors copyright collecting society SACD describing it as being driven by publicity considerations and accusing the broadcaster of violating all the rules governing windowing of content in France.

Other industry figures cited by French press indicated that viewed the move as akin to piracy and motivated by a desire not to have to recompense a subscriber base deprived of premium sports.

Canal+ has maintained that it always planned to bring the free-to-view move to an end at the end of March and has denied that it acted after the intervention of media regulator the CSA, acting on the request of broadcasters such as TF1 and M6, as reported elsewhere.

Canal+ told the AFP news agency that it had received a letter from the media watchdog regretting that it had not been warned in advance of the “temporary” move, but said it had been authorised to continue with free-to-air broadcasts until the end of the month.

Gérald-Brice Viret, director of broadcast and programming at Canal+, said that France had to “remain united” in the face off the crisis and that was why the broadcaster’s chief executive Maxime Saada had announced that Canal+_ would move “exceptionally” to free-to-view “for [TV] box customers for the next two weeks”.

In Poland, Canal+ Polska has also made its higher-tier channels available free-to-view with a time limit of the end of March, including a number of movies from the catalogue of Kino Świat, the distributor it acquired recently.