French Media Giant Vivendi Eyeing Stake in Lionsgate-Owned Starz

French media company Vivendi is reportedly considering a minority stake bid for Starz, the pay-TV/subscription streaming video company owned by Lionsgate. The interest follows media reports about Roku teaming up with Apollo Global Management for a separate minority bid for Starz, which Lionsgate acquired for $4.4 billion in 2016.

Lionsgate last year said it would entertain offers for Starz, which includes about 20 million subscribers to its SVOD services, in an effort to up the platform’s market value. Starz premium pay-TV platform competes against Paramount Global’s Showtime and Warner Bros. Discovery’s HBO.

The Financial Times, citing sources, reports that Vivendi’s Canal+ unit is eyeing submitting a bid as a way to consolidate Starz’s streaming business with its 24 million streaming subs split between Europe and Africa. Vivendi currently owns 80% stake in Universal Music Group, which owns several albums in The Beatles catalog.

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As the global SVOD market continues to evolve, subscriber bases underscore market strength and a fiscal leverage when creating and acquiring content. Despite losing 200,000 subs in its most-recent fiscal quarter, Netflix remains the market benchmark with 221 million subs — a tally that has enabled the SVOD pioneer to dominate content spending in Hollywood and beyond.

Both Lionsgate and Vivendi have not commented on any possible negotiations. Lionsgate reports fourth-quarter and fiscal year 2022 results later this month.

Disney+ Coming to France’s Canal+ in March

Facing competition from Netflix, which has topped 6 million subscribers in France, pay-TV operator Canal+ has inked a deal with Disney+ to bring the SVOD service to the country by the end of March.

“This exclusive partnership is a new major step in the transformation of the Canal+ model,” Maxime Saada, CEO of the broadcaster, told French daily Les Echos.

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The deal is interesting since Canal+ inked a similar distribution deal with Netflix in September, offering subscribers direct access to the SVOD behemoth with single €35 monthly fee, which included pay-TV, movies and TV shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO.

“Netflix is the global reference in the industry with world-acclaimed shows,” Saada said at the time. “This offer complements our all-round offer of first-run movies, major live sports events, world-class series, including our Créations Originales. It also helps us further consolidate our position as a key aggregator of content and services.”

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France’s Pay-TV Service Canal+ Inks Netflix

If you can’t beat them, join them.

More than a year after Canal+ Group CEO Maxine Saada blamed Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for undermining a branded subscription streaming video service, Canal Play, the pay-TV operator has signed up Netflix.

Canal+ will begin offering subscribers direct access to the SVOD behemoth beginning Oct. 15 with single €35 monthly fee, which includes €20 for pay-TV and €15 for movies and TV shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO.

Canal+ warns that the loss-leading €15 surcharge is to lure subs and won’t last forever, which means a future price hike.

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“Netflix is the global reference in the industry with world-acclaimed shows,” Said said in a statement. “This offer complements our all-round offer of first-run movies, major live sports events, world-class series, including our Créations Originales. It also helps us further consolidate our position as a key aggregator of content and services.”

For Netflix, which already has more than 6 million French subs after a sluggish start, the partnership underscores original content possibilities.

“Great stories can come from anywhere and be loved everywhere – and we’re committed to helping more people access a diverse range of content from creators all around the world both on Netflix and through our partnership with Canal+,” said Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.


France’s Canal+ Launches New SVOD Service; Encourages Password Sharing

Seeking to combat Netflix’s rising popularity in France, pay-TV giant Canal+ March 12 launched a new subscription streaming video service, c+Séries, featuring local and international TV content, including original programming.

In a twist, Canal+ is marketing the €6.99 ($7.90) monthly service without movies through a campaign that encourages users to share their password with up to four people — the latter based on the €14 ($15.90) plan.

The service is accessed through the existing “myCanal” app, which is available on Apple iOS and Android platforms.

Frank Cadoret, deputy CEO of the C+ Group, said the service targets younger demos by offering episodic dramas and multiple distribution options.

“We are totally in tune with the new aspirations of the public,” Cadoret said in a statement.

Indeed, with Netflix recently surpassing 5 million subs in France, Canal+ is trying to appeal to a consumer that is moving away from traditional linear TV distribution and toward over-the-top video.

In addition to more than 150 series, c+Séries streams content from CBS-owned Showtime and Fox’s FX, including “Billions,” “SMILF,” “Pose” and “What We Do in The Shadows,” the platform offers StudioCanal original series “The Lawyer” and “Moscow Noir.” Catalog series “The Americans,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “24,” “Dexter”and “X-Files” also are available.



Netflix Tops 5 Million Subs in France

After fits and starts, Netflix has reportedly exceeded 5 million subscribers in France — five years after launching service largely to indifferent consumers, according to publication Les Echos.

 The publication cited comments from Netflix co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings, who was in Paris recently to announce the opening of a company office staffed by 20 employees.

The benchmark is impressive considering Netflix reported 3.5 million subs last September. Since then, the SVOD pioneer has pledge to double local content production. It has also attempted to bridge a divide with the French movie industry, notably the Cannes Film Festival regarding theatrical windows.

 The publication said French media pay-TV/SVOD platform Canal+ still exceeds Netflix in average monthly revenue per subscriber (€40) compared to €12 for Netflix.

French households now spend 1% – 2% of their TV viewing with Netflix, compared to 10% in the United States. About 1.7 million people in France watch Netflix and other video-on-demand services daily (including 60-70% Netflix) in prime time, according to an NPA Conseil study.

Les Echos said Canal+plans to launch a less expensive SVOD service with localized content to up competition with Netflix. In addition the service has the ability to license American TV shows such as “Billions” and “The Affair,” as Showtime does not distribute internationally.

“Even though it has reached the 5 million subscriber mark in France, Netflix probably still has a real growth reserve,” wrote Les Echos.

French Broadcaster Canal+ Gets Shorter Theatrical Window

The French theatrical window is famously long and a matter of law. Changing it simply isn’t an option – unless you’re Canal+, a major financial backer of independent cinema in France.

The Canal+ Group recently announced a new agreement with French regulators that enables its pay-TV service to broadcast theatrical releases from six months after their box office debut.

Typically, French broadcasters must wait at least 10 months. But with declining pay-TV subs in the face of increased competition from over-the-top video platforms, the status quo is changing.

In exchange for the shorter window, Canal+ renewed a commitment to spend more than $200 million annually funding local French film productions through 2023.

The deal also allows Studiocanal, the company’s TV and theatrical unit, for the first time to produce four in-house productions per year—rather than just funding third-party content.

Meanwhile, subscription streaming video services such as Netflix can wait up to three years before gaining access to French theatrical titles – a primary reason why the SVOD pioneer remains engaged in a protracted dispute with the Cannes Film Festival and French exhibitors regarding streaming its original movies concurrent with box office.

While the impasse between Netflix and French exhibitors continues to generate headlines, government officials recognize changing market conditions.

The streaming service, along with Amazon Prime Video and other over-the-top video services, can now stream theatrical titles 15 months after their box office debut, provided they fund local productions – something Netflix and Amazon are doing.

In September, Netflix announced it was producing 14 original series in France in an effort to reach the 30% local content mandate. Netflix reportedly ended the third quarter with about 3.5 million French subscribers.

In February, Amazon announced its first French/German series co-production, a comedy titled, “Deutsch-Les Landes.”

“This is just the beginning for us, as we will keep on bringing the best of French and international TV, including new French Originals, to our customers here,” Jay Marine, VP of Amazon Video EU, said at the time.