Disney+ Signs Exclusive France Distribution Deal With Canal Plus

Mandalorian Still 2 - Episode 5 photo -  Disney+ Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Disney+

The studio's streaming service launches in France on March 31.

Disney+ has signed an exclusive distribution deal with French pay TV giant Canal Plus Group, which will see the unit of Vivendi be the sole distributor of Disney's new streaming service in France from its launch March 31, 2020.

The deal, which Canal Plus Group CEO Maxime Saada confirmed on his Twitter account late Sunday, extends the long-term relationship between the French company and Disney. Canal Plus has been the studio's exclusive French licensing partner for several years, handling titles from Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm.

The agreement gives Canal Plus a leg up on the competition as the streaming wars heat up in France. Online providers and telecommunications groups in France will have to go through Canal Plus if they want to offer Disney+ to their subscribers.

Canal Plus will retain all Disney content for the French market. In addition to holding exclusive French rights to Star Wars and Marvel films, the pay TV group is the exclusive distributor of Disney channels in France, as well as Disney's National Geographic, Voyage and Fox Play channels.

It remains to be seen if Disney will follow a similar strategy for Disney+ in other European territories. It launched its new streaming service over-the-top in the Netherlands, but in larger European markets, including the U.K., Germany and Italy, Disney has an exclusive licensing deal with  Comcast-owned pay TV group Sky.

Most analysts agree that securing distribution will be key if Disney+ and other new streaming services are to achieve the necessary audience reach. Netflix has been aggressive in signing carriage deals with European platforms, including Sky and Canal Plus as well as French telecom services, such as Orange, SFR and Free and Germany's Deutsche Telekom. Amazon Prime has done similar distribution deals with SFR and Free in France.

On the flip side, pay TV and telecom providers are keen to stock up on streaming services so that they can position themselves as premium content aggregators.