TV outfits sign pact with French TV service

Warner Bros. Intl. TV and HBO have inked exclusive multiyear deals to be first-off U.S. suppliers to France Telecom Orange’s Orange Cinema Service, a premium pay TV service unveiled Monday at Mip TV.

OCS is expected to launch in the fourth quarter.

Deal is just one of many for Orange, a highly ambitious cable, IPTV and mobile TV operator in France, as it seeks to tap exclusive content to lure subscribers to what is looking like a more modestly priced rival to Canal Plus’ Le Bouquet, a package of six premium channels.

In domestic deals, Orange has signed for a wide selection of library pics from Gaumont and new movies from Fidelite Films.

From Warner Bros. Intl. TV Distribution, Orange has acquired rights to all of WB’s current and upcoming feature films, such as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “I Am Legend.”

“This deal represents a real change in the pay TV landscape in France from the monopoly that was created with the combination of Canal Plus and TPS,” Warner Bros. Intl. TV prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger told Daily Variety. “Having an alternative in the market is good for viewers, subscribers and programming suppliers.”

The HBO accord is the U.S. pay cabler’s first-ever output deal in France, and includes miniseries “John Adams,” the upcoming Alan Ball series “True Blood” and David Simon’s mini “Generation Kill,” plus select docus and library titles.

HBO projects that it’ll have around half a dozen new series pilots in 2008, said Charles Schreger, HBO prexy of programming sales. So France Telecom Orange could be tapping into a rich vein of new programming.

Facilitating the deal was HBO’s move to pull back all international sales under its own roof, Simon Sutton, prexy of programming distribution and international, said at Cannes.

The feevee had originally envisaged selling programming a la carte, Schreger said. “But there happened to be some markets where there was so much competition that there was the possibility of not doing a la carte, and that’s what’s happened with France Telecom,” he said, describing the deal price with FT as “very competitive.”

Orange Cinema Service will consist of six movie/TV series channels, and one big question being asked at Mip TV is whether Orange will now make an aggressive play for other U.S. network-studio product once their contracts lapse with Canal Plus.

Orange boasts one of Europe’s biggest rollouts in mobile TV and IPTV. It has 1.2 million IPTV clients and some 500,000 mobile TV consumers. Orange Cinema Services will be offered on these platforms on a subscription and programming-on-demand basis.

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