Molotov Launches Live TV Recording App in France

Pierre Lescure - Getty - H 2016
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The new app from CanalPlus founder Pierre Lescure has deals with all major television networks in France, is a key product for Apple TV and has its sights on global growth.

France’s Molotov is hoping to blow up the traditional TV viewing experience with its new app that allows subscribers to watch or record live TV across devices.

“The television interface hasn’t changed since it was invented,” says CEO Jean-David Blanc. The AlloCine founder is part of a trio of leadership that includes CanalPlus founder and current Cannes Film Festival president Pierre Lescure and former TF1 director of strategy and innovation Jean-Marc Denoual.

The app launches Monday in France, and the company has signed deals with the 33 free-to-air TV channels in the country, including major networks TF1 and M6, as well as specialized channels such as Paramount for films and Disney for kids. The basic service is free, with two packages at €3.99 ($4.40) and €9.99 ($11.03) offering expanded bookmarking capabilities and access to pay channels. CanalPlus and beIN Sport are not on offer for now, but the company is in negotiations and hopes to add them by September.

“We have reinvented TV in the way the Netflix reinvented the interface for video,” Blanc told The Hollywood Reporter.

Molotov aims to turn the traditional TV grid inside out and then shake it up a little more with extensive search and organization capabilities to find programming that is classified by time, category, star, type and subject. It retains recent programming even without setting record and you can view and bookmark programs up to 15 days in advance. 

Blanc said TV channels have been losing viewers not because of the quality of content, but because it's either inaccessible or obscured by the thousands of other programs available at any given time.

“The TV channels produce great content, and if you aggregate these channels with a new interface then suddenly the TV channels get back in the game,” he said.

Molotov may be a cord-cutter’s dream, but the company is careful to work within channels’ current ecosystem, Blanc stressed.

“We don’t want to ‘Uberize’ television. You can’t modernize it and kill it at the same time,” he says. Ads are played exactly as they would be on live TV, for example, and the company has been working closely with French ratings service MediaMetrie to include Molotov viewers in their numbers. They also provide the networks with data and dashboards to extract information to help with programming.

“We enhance the opportunities for [networks] to get more eyeballs, more audience, and a younger audience," said Blanc. "They love the idea that maybe this is a solution to keep the audience that is now going on different platforms.”

Though Molotov is available on phone, tablets, PCs and connected TVs, a key platform for Molotov will be its availability on the newly redesigned Apple TV, which launched last fall. With the app interface and the new Siri-powered remote, the company has been making a major move to take over what it calls “the largest screen in the home.”

“We believe the future of TV is apps, and Molotov is another great example of what developers are creating on tvOS and iOS,” said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vp, internet software and services.

Since launching its new Apple TV last fall, the service has over 6,000 apps, and Molotov is an example of what they think the living room experience should be. In turn, Apple’s support has been key in developing the app through an advisory role. Execs even flew to Paris last week to promote Molotov’s impending launch.

“The reason we wanted to shine a light on this particular app is that we really feel this is one of the first apps to come along and embrace what we think is the future of television,” Shaan Pruden, Apple's senior director of developer partnerships, told THR.

"There’s a lot of different ways to do customer interface on Apple TV and it’s new for developers to be on a screen that large, so I’m sure it will continue to evolve over time, but [Molotov has] done a really nice job in their first version of making content really accessible and easy to find," she said. "The problem they’re trying to solve is that in live television it’s not easy to dig around and find what's actually happening right now among several hundred channels."

With the app store available in 155 countries, Molotov has global expansion plans. Blanc said they are currently negotiating in other countries and expect to launch in additional territories in the first quarter of 2017.

Global growth aside, Blanc added: “In many ways, this is a very local business, because all television channels are local.”