Canal Plus Pays $9.5 Million in Overdue Royalties to French Authors Amid Legal Fight

Sued by several French guilds over its alleged failure to pay royalties since the beginning of the year, Canal Plus has paid €8 million ($9.5 million) to the SACD, a society representing authors, composers and music publishers, ahead of a court hearing Thursday.

In July, the SACD, SACEM (authors and composers guild), SCAM (multimedia authors guild), and ADAGP (Society of Authors in the Graphic and Plastic Arts) filed a lawsuit in the Paris high court seeking Canal Plus’ payment of overdue royalties amounting to an estimated 50 million euros. The suit alleges that Canal Plus stopped paying authors in order to force a re-negotiation and extract a bargain on overdue royalties as part of the company’s plan to save €300 million by 2018.

Canal Plus’ $9.5 million payment to the SACD covers royalties on revenue generated by Canal Plus and CanalPlay during the first half of 2017 and part of 2016. The SACD has decided, however, to remain involved in the lawsuit as it also demands payment of royalties linked to series, documentaries and music videos that aired on CanalSat and the group’s free-to-air channel C8.

Contacted by Variety, Canal Plus confirmed the payment to the SACD had recently been made and declined to comment.

The other guilds involved in the lawsuit — the SACEM, SCAM and ADAGP — have not been paid since the start of the year and have stopped distributing royalties owed by Canal Plus to authors for several months.

When news of the suit emerged, Canal Plus lashed out and suggested the need for the collection agencies to be audited to ensure that authors receive the totality of their royalties. The pay-TV group also argued that it stood as “the country’s primary financier of creative content in France with more than $912 million invested every year, including €330 million invested in films and TV works.”

During the previous financial year, Canal Plus’ pay-TV operations fell by 6.1% because of its plummeting subscriber base, which lost 492,000 subscribers in 2016 and totaled 5.2 million subscribers by year’s end.

Audiences for the free-to-air windows (midday and primetime) on Canal Plus’ flagship channel have been on a downward slide for several years, and ad revenues have followed the same path, dropping to €73 million in 2016 from €143 million in 2014, according to a recent report published on BFMTV.

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