TPS, Canal+ clash

Satcaster sez paybox hording rights to pix

PARIS — Relations between the Television Par Satellite (TPS) digital consortium and paybox Canal Plus have taken another turn for the worse. TPS has lodged a complaint with a French court, claiming Canal Plus is breaking French competition laws.

Canal Plus has counterattacked by going to the Tribunal de Commerce in Paris to complain that TF1, France Television and M6, all members of the TPS consortium, refused to carry an ad spot for Canal Plus last April.

In a 30-page filing, TPS lawyers claim that Canal Plus is using its pay television power to prevent the digital consortium and its Multivision pay-per-view subsidiary from obtaining film rights, particularly for local pics.

Canal clout

At the heart of the TPS beef is the fact that Canal Plus is the biggest single investor in the French film industry. Practically no French pic gets made without having Canal Plus coin in it. The Canal Plus team has recently made it clear to French producers that they should think hard before selling either pay-per-view or pay TV rights to the TPS consortium.

The TPS court documents also point out that, with around 9 million subscribers across Europe, compared to TPS’ 160,000, Canal Plus is in a far stronger position to negotiate with the U.S. majors. “The strategy of Canal Plus is to block, for as long as possible, the emergence of a pay-per-view market which would rival (Canal Plus),” noted a TPS statement.

In particular, Multivision is known to be having difficulty obtaining French films, to such an extent that it is struggling to meet its broadcast quotas for local product laid down by the French authorities.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, the Gallic competition court is waiting for an opinion from audiovisual watchdog the CSA before making any decision on the TPS complaint. The CSA recently noted that Canal Plus had apparently refused to pre-buy films which had struck separate pay-per-view deals.

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