Canal+ Enters Exclusive Negotiations to Acquire France’s Second Biggest Pay TV Group OCS

Canal+ Group has entered exclusive negotiations to acquire the film and pay TV operations of Orange, France’s leading telco group, Variety has learned.

The acquisition, which has been in the works for months, includes both Orange Studio and OCS, the film, television, and pay-TV divisions of Orange. OCS ranks as France’s second local pay TV service behind Canal+. The company’s employees were informed that a deal was being negotiated exclusively with Canal+. Orange had no comment. Canal+ had not yet responded to our request for comment.

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Canal+ Group, whose parent company is Vivendi, already owns 33.3% of OCS, the pay-TV arm of Orange, and has been distributing the service on its platform as part of its cable bundle since 2011.

Orange Studio, meanwhile, is the content division in charge of co-producing, selling abroad and distributing select films in France. The company for instance distributed Florian Zeller’s “The Father” in France, and also has French rights to Zeller’s follow up “The Son.”

The deal will be subject to anti-trust approval. In 2011, the anti-trust board blocked Canal+ Group’s attempt to merge with OCS and launch a premium pay TV channel, but that was before the French market was altered by the arrival of streaming services. Netflix alone boasts more than 13 million subscribers in France, ahead of Canal+ which had 9.6 million locally, and OCS with 2.9 million subscribers.

Canal+ has also pledged to maintain the company’s staff, according to a source. Some executives are concerned that OCS and Orange Studio will have the same fate as TPS, another pay TV group which was acquired by Canal+ in 2007 and went under five years later.

OCS, which launched in 2008, ranks as France’s second largest pay TV group behind Canal+. It was initially viewed as a rival to Canal+ as it invested heavily in premium content to recruit subscribers. Its pricey multi-year deal with HBO helped OCS stay sustain its subscriber base and stay afloat for a number of year, but the pay TV group never managed to become financially viable. OCS is now about to see its multi-year deal with HBO come to an end.

Warner Bros. Discovery has set the date for the roll out of its combined HBO-Discovery+ service in Europe beginning in 2024; and just signed a deal with Amazon Prime Video for the first-window rights to a selection of exclusive TV series in France starting next year.

Another aspect that will likely be carefully explored during the sales process is the investment obligations in French and European content that Canal+ and OCS each have as pay TV services. OCS signed last February a three-year pact with film orgs to invest at least €60 million on French and European film in the three years. Canal+, meanwhile, has committed to investing €600 million in French and European films from 2022 to 2024.

Canal+ had no comment.

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