French TV Giants End Talks to Merge Streaming Services Amid Netflix Competition

Orange is the New Black Finale Still - H 2015

Orange is the New Black Finale Still - H 2015

TF1, M6 and France Televisions had been in discussions to create a "French Netflix."

Talks between French channels TF1, M6 and France Televisions, as well as cable provider Orange, to merge their streaming services in an effort to create a French competitor to Netflix, have halted. 

TF1 is the top-rated channel in France, with M6 and France Televisions' France 2 being its closest competitors.

Discussions were said to have begun months ago, but the economic reality of launching a competitor to the international SVOD behemoth proved to be too much, even for France's top broadcasters.

“Market testing showed that we were not able to meet medium-term profitability,” said Xavier Couture, the project leader and advisor to Orange CEO Stephane Richard, confirming a report from French business newspaper Les Echos.

“We have not abandoned the idea of a common project. We continue to consider other formulas together,” he added, though talks have ceased for now.

A draft agreement had been reached, but parties could not finalize the deal. It would have seen the SVOD services of TF1, M6 France Televisions merge with the support of Orange.

“There was never any question of making (Orange Cinema Series movie channel) OCS the vehicle of the 'French Netflix.' Orange would participate in the project by providing its sales force and distribution capacity,” Couture said. Orange provides cable services for 11 million French homes.

Notably CanalPlus, which has its own fledgling SVOD CanalPlay service positioned as a competitor to Netflix, was not involved in the talks.

Netflix launched in France in Sept. 2014 and signed a deal with Orange that November to be carried on its set-top boxes throughout the country.

Strengthening its foothold in the country, Netflix is in production on its first French-language series Marseille. The political thriller stars Gerard Depardieu and was created by Dan Franck, who wrote Golden Globe-winner Carlos with Olivier Assayas.

It is estimated that Netflix has upwards of 500,000 subscribers in France, and that it will reach 2 million by 2019.