France Telecom's film investment up for debate

Negotiations between Orange, film industry faltering

PARIS -- Things are heating up at France Telecom as company president Didier Lombard and the nation's film industry engage in a tete-a-tete over how much the company should invest in French cinema.

Lombard said at MIPTV in April that his company planned to launch "Orange Cinema Series," a subscription television service spanning all media platforms. The new product would offer new films, TV series and catalog titles through exclusive content deals with Warner Bros. International Television, HBO, Fidelite and a selection of titles from Gaumont's catalog.

Since then, however, negotiations between Orange and the major players in the French film industry have been rough.

Rival TV operator Canal Plus must invest 120 million euros ($172.5 million) per year in French films, and France's film organizations want Orange to invest 60 million euros-80 million euros ($86.2 million-$115 million) in national fare.

But Lombard told France's state broadcast regulator the CSA last week that he refuses to invest such a huge amount and is now reconsidering the December launch of the Orange Cinema Series.

France Telecom declined comment. A press conference regarding the future of the Orange Cinema Series will be held Oct. 8.