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France’s Antitrust Watchdog Imposes Conditions on Canal Plus’ Acquisition to Safeguard Diversity in French Cinema

 |  January 15, 2024

In a significant move to safeguard the diversity within the French cinema landscape, France’s national competition regulator, the Autorité de la concurrence, has mandated Canal Plus to uphold a commitment to diversity as a precondition for its acquisition of OCS (Orange Cinéma Séries) and Orange Studio.

Canal Plus, already owning a substantial 33.3% stake in OCS, is a major contributor to the 2.9 million subscribers of the popular streaming service. The antitrust regulator expressed concerns over the potential establishment of a monopoly, favoring the Vivendi unit, which could pose a threat to the varied nature of French cinema.

The proposed transaction would have placed Canal Plus Group as the exclusive pre-buyer of recent French films for the crucial first-pay-window broadcast, a position that holds immense influence in the financing of film projects. Currently, Canal Plus Group and OCS are the only first-pay-window outlets available to French film producers seeking pre-financing for their ventures.

The Autorité de la concurrence’s investigation revealed that the consolidation would eliminate the only alternative to Canal Plus Group in the first window, namely OCS, despite its lower financial contributions. Notably, the distinct investment policies of Canal Plus Group and OCS have played a crucial role in supporting diverse projects.

Furthermore, the regulatory body found that subscription video-on-demand platforms were insufficient as alternatives to the new entity, particularly in addressing the challenges of diversity in French film production.

The potential limitations on the availability of Orange Studio’s French catalogue films on catch-up TV services of free-to-air channels, coupled with the possible reduction in channels offered by certain Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in French overseas territories, raised additional concerns for the Autorité.

In response to the antitrust regulator’s findings, Canal Plus has engaged in discussions and agreed to a set of remedies aimed at preserving the diversity of French cinema. Key commitments include the establishment of an OCS/Ciné+ acquisition team dedicated solely to pre-purchasing first-pay-window French films from local producers. This team will operate independently from Canal Plus’ existing structure.

These measures underscore a concerted effort to address the antitrust concerns raised by the Autorité de la concurrence and to ensure that the acquisition does not compromise the rich and varied landscape of French cinema. The commitments by Canal Plus mark a significant step toward balancing market dynamics while supporting the continued flourishing of the French film industry.

Source: Broad Band TV News