Amazon to Launch SVOD Service in France

 Amazon

PARIS – Canal Plus chief Bertrand Meheut told a hearing with the French Council of State that online retailer Amazon is planning to launch a subscription video-on-demand service in March 2013.

"Amazon will launch its SVOD service in France in March 2013," Meheut said. "We know it because our branch Studio Canal has been selling exclusive rights to Amazon for a launch of their service in March on the Kindle Fire."

Following its takeover of competitor TPS, Canal Plus was forbidden by France's audiovisual sector competition watchdog CSA to keep VOD and SVOD rights exclusive for its own network

Canal Plus has been engaged in a bitter fight to lift such barriers, arguing that the Competition Authority is fighting the wrong fight.

Authorities should not oppose a French group in its ambition to be strong enough to withstand competition from powerful players such as the American internet retailing giant, Canal Plus claims.

Amazon bought British SVOD business LoveFilm in 2008 and claims a total of two million subscribers across five European territories: the U.K., Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Industry commentators agree that the arrival of the American group could rock the French market place, where the film industry has been fighting to maintain specific regulations, from which incoming foreign players might claim to be exempt.

The French legislative grid, known as "media chronology," guarantees each window of distribution to follow a strict sequence of exclusivities.

The media timings blocks all access to SVOD for a significant period of three years after a film's date of theatrical release. Because of that France has thus been regarded as an unattractive market for SVOD services, and a low priority on the map of extension through Europe of U.S. players.

But Hollywood majors have not signed the local inter-professional agreements, and could challenge the legality of the local release timings.

Canal Plus deputy chief Maxime Saada added that Netflix was getting ready for an entry into the French market early 2013, although its arrival has been unofficially announced more than once.

Amazon declined to comment.

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