PARIS — A top purveyor of original drama and high-profile imports, paybox Canal Plus is launching a premium HD channel dedicated to series to drive up subscriptions.
Canal Plus Series, set to bow Sept. 21, will boast 20 to 30 new series per year, kicking off with NBC’s “Hannibal,” Channel 4’s “Utopia,” FX’s “The Americans” and Netflix’s “Lilyhammer.”
Canal Plus Series will also feature U.S. series 48 hours to seven days after their U.S. broadcast, starting with the third seasons of two ABC skeins: Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal” and Mike Kelley’s “Revenge.” And every weekend, the net will air marathon programming of such popular series as Showtime’s “Homeland” and original Canal Plus skeins, “Rebound,” “Mafiosa” and “Working Girls.”
“Most series that will air on primetime and second part of evenings will be new and exclusive and won’t necessarily be slated on Canal Plus’ flagship channel afterward,” said Maxime Saada, Canal Plus marketing director. “Our goal is to double up the volume of shows we currently air.”
Saada pointed out 66% of subscribers claim series are a strong motivation for them to join Canal Plus, according to a recent survey. Films and Sports are still the top two motivations for subscribers, he said.
Canal Plus France revenues were slightly up last year. Subscriptions remained stable despite the recession, edging down about 80,000 to 9.7 million.
Besides stabilizing and ramping up subscriptions, Canal Plus is also looking to counterattack piracy and have an extra platform to showcase its vast array of series, said Manuel Alduy, Canal Plus’ topper of film and foreign series acquisitions.
The channel will have to fulfill the investment quotas set by the French broadcasting authorities (CSA), which means it will have to dedicate 60% of its programming slate to European programs, including 40% of Gallic content. Asked why Canal Plus waited this long to launch a series channel, Alduy said Canal Plus didn’t have the necessary volume of French shows to fulfill the CSA requirements.
Another obvious incentive is to compete with Orange Cinema Series (OCS), the rival premium paybox operated by Telco group Orange, which has reached more than 1 million subscribers ; and get prepared to face off digital players such as Netflix, which has been rumored to prepare an expansion across Europe.
Canal Plus inked a five-year licensing deal with HBO, covering second-window rights to new series, in April; as OCS still has exclusive first-window rights. The paybox nevertheless has output agreements with Universal, Fox, Paramount and Disney.
The sixth channel of the pay TV bouquet, Canal Plus Series will be included in the subscription price.