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Orange launches quad-play premium TV service

09 октября 2008

Orange announced in France a five-channel film and television service, which by mid-January will be available simultaneously via mobile phone, PC and TV.

The multi-screen offering includes exclusive films and programming from HBO and Warner and is designed to firmly position Orange in the French market as a heavyweight pay-content provider.

The announcement is a culmination of a long technical project to build a platform to deliver content to three screens, and of negotiations with content holders to secure recent cinema releases, back catalogues of cinema classics, and blockbuster television series for the service.

However, the
Orange announcement, which brought executives from HBO and Warner into town, was clouded by the publication earlier this week of a newsletter by Arcep.

The French regulator expressed concern that the concentration of content in a few hands will adversely affect competition in the French telecoms market.

"If a large content aggregator is able either to grant exclusive content distribution rights to a particular network operator, or to offer access to all operators, but on unequal terms, then normal competition between network operators is compromised," said Paul Champsaur, head of Arcep.

Canal+, which is part of the Vivendi group, is
France's largest pay-TV provider.

Vivendi in turn has a controlling stake in SFR, which recently merged with Neuf Cegetel to form a fixed-mobile operator that expects to report revenues of €12 billion in 2008.

But Arcep also indirectly targeted Orange.

"Changing networks is a heavy decision and relatively complicated to undertake.
Thus the biggest networks can judge that it is in their interest to have exclusive distribution rights to certain content … in order to be more attractive than their competitors," wrote Champsaur.

"The aim is to ensure that the end customers of each operator can have access to content and services. That supposes both banning large network operators from actively taking part in the content sector, and obliging large content aggregators to offer equal and open access to all network operators," he said.

, however, argues the market is developing beyond previous demarcations between network operators and content providers, and that at least one of its competitors, SFR, has enough scale and financial muscle to compete for content rights.

"SFR [and] Vivendi … have similar [financial] means.
They didn't buy [football rights] and we did," commented Louis-Pierre Wenes, executive director of Orange France.

"We did it so that people would come to [us].
We've gone beyond mobile or Internet access – it's a global service," he said.

"Content can't be seen as separate from networks."

SFR did not buy rights to broadcast French football league matches because it judged them overpriced, according to SFR's president Frank Esser, speaking at a recent press conference.

"Our strategy is very different to that of Orange, which is starting to pay too much for content," said Esser, stating that Orange's recent spend on football rights in France amounted to "€30 per year per Orange customer. It's better to leave [content] to partners," Esser contended.

"We will work more with Canal+, but not in exclusivity," he said.

's Wenes would not be drawn on exactly how much Orange is spending on content, except to say that it was in the range of hundreds of millions of Euros. Nor would he say how the company calculates its return on investment in content services.

"We look at what we are prepared to put into the business as a whole," he said.

Orange's new channels, which cost €12 per month via television and PC, and an additional €6 per month via mobile, will offer films and programmes on demand during one month after they are first broadcast, as well a rewind service.

The PC and TV service will be available next month, followed by the mobile service in January.
In addition Orange will continue to sell video-on-demand programming.

Outside France Orange will introduce the technical platform for providing content simultaneously to mobile phones, PCs, and televisions, according to Raoul Roverato, executive vice president in charge of new growth businesses.

However, he said the content service will not be the same in other countries.

needs broadband customer scale to warrant investment in content as well as access to premium content.

In the
UK, for example, Orange's ambitions are curtailed by its small slice of the broadband market and BSkyB's control of premium content, explained Roverato.

, however, may offer more opportunity, he said.

As for
Spain, Roverato bemoaned the current regulatory regime, which will allow Telefonica to build new fibre access networks without an obligation to share fibre optic lines.

However, he said it would make "no sense" for
Orange to buy Spain's pay-TV company, Digital Plus, given both its price tag and its satellite-only distribution model, despite rumours that Orange may do so.

Источник: Total Telecom

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