French cablers, theme channels vie over fee

Extra costs an unexpected financial blow, Acces sez

PARIS — A fight has broken out between French cable operators and theme channels over who should pay for transmitting programs to subs.

“We’re ready to start a new relationship, but in the present situation we refuse to pay without discussing this,” said Guillaume Gronier of Acces, the association of cable and satellite channels.

Cable operator Noos started the ball rolling in January by asking some of its channels to discuss paying line costs when they upped their contracts.

Acces launched a counterattack last week, worried that some theme channels would be axed and claiming that the extra costs were an unexpected financial blow.

As well as paying for the transport of data by satellite, the channels will now have to cough up for transporting programs from the network to the viewer.

Noos, supported by Aform (the association of French multiservice network operators), said they’re fed up with forking over the 2 million franc ($280,000) annual transmission fee for their cable channels when terrestrial and satellite channels already pay their share, as do other European cable channels.

Noos distribs 77 French channels and is running at a loss. No French cable operator is in profit. The operators blame the losses on unprofitable advertising due to the specific target auds of cable channels as well as the high cost of seeking subs.

“We’re very surprised by the theme channels’ outraged reaction,” Aform’s Daniele Blangille told Daily Variety Wednesday. “We’d warned them in December that changes were going to be made.”

Acces and Aform are due to negotiate contractual changes in March.

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