Patrick Drahi's Altice to Acquire Majority Stake in France's Molotov Platform

Altice founder Patrick Drahi Getty - H 2016
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The platform, launched by Cannes Film Festival president Pierre Lescure, will eye international expansion.

Patrick Drahi's Altice has entered into exclusive discussions to acquire a majority stake in French TV platform Molotov, the companies announced Wednesday in a joint statement. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

Drahi, who owns the former Cablevision Systems and a controlling stake in Suddenlink in the U.S., will take a 60 percent stake in the company and will look to expand the service, which bills itself as the "Spotify of TV," internationally.

Though Molotov — founded by Cannes president and former CanalPlus head Pierre Lescure, Allocine founder Jean-David Blanc and former TF1 head Jean-Marc Denoual and backed by investment fund Idinvest — launched to much fanfare in 2016, the company has been vocal about seeking investors for upward of $57 million (50 million euros) since 2017. Additionally, there have been media reports that the company was running out of cash. The company had raised $35 million (30 million euros) since its launch in 2016, but had brought on banks last year to find additional investors.

In unverified numbers, Molotov said it had 6 million users as of July 2018, calling 40 percent “faithful” users that watch more than 20 hours of content per month. They said sign-ups were steady at a pace of 20,000 per month.

The founders will stay on board, the companies indicated. “The discussions concern a majority stake for Altice France in Molotov alongside its founders and historical shareholders,” they said.

Altice's support should “accelerate the development of Molotov, give the French platform the means to become a major player in OTT in France and abroad, [and] to distribute French and international content around the world," the statement said.

Molotov offers OTT viewing of free and pay TV channels including major networks TF1 and M6, as well as specialized channels such as Paramount and Disney. It's available across devices and on Apple TV for free, though users can pay for upgrades or subscriptions to premium content at different price points.

The agreement with Altice is expected to double the number of channels available on the app, as it will add Altice's sports channels. Altice also has an output deal with NBCUniversal International for Syfy and E! Entertainment Television in France. Drahi's compnay has been positioning itself to take on CanalPlus and Orange's OCS premium channels.

Molotov “will be able to rely on all of Altice's telecom and media assets, including its premium content, its commercial strength and its international footprint, in order to continue its development," they added.