French Telco Orange Rolling Out International Sales Division, Venturing into TV Drama

Following the footsteps of major telco groups around the world, France’s leading telecom group Orange is set to significantly ramp up its content input with the launch of an international sales division.

The international sales division will allow Orange Studio to become a vertically-integrated company such as Gaumont, Studiocanal and TF1 Studio. Back in November, Orange Studio signed a distribution deal with UGC Images, a subsidiary of Europe’s second-biggest cinema circuit, to kick off direct-distribution operations in France.

Orange Studio also entered a partnership with Jean-Philippe Tirel’s Selective Films to co-acquire films. The first movie co-acquired with Selective Films that is set to be released under the new Orange Studio Distribution label is Jonathan Teplitzky’s “Churchill.”

The first international sales slate of Orange Studio includes Claude Lanzmann’s documentary feature “Napalm,” which is playing in the special screening section at Cannes, and Sekou Traore’s “The Eye of the Storm,” an Africa-set drama about a young soldier who has to defend a rebel soldier.

Kessler said this new activity would be part of Orange Content, a newly-created umbrella division that regroups all of Orange’s entertainment businesses.

When it launched in 2007, Orange Studio had a partnership with Gregoire Melin’s Kinology but since that deal ended a few years ago, the banner was only involved in selling second-window rights to select movies.

“When we see AT&T with Warner or Telefonica with Movistar Plus, it’s obvious that there is a lot of business to do between telecom companies and premium content purveyors. We can’t just sit there and watch, we want to be part of this ongoing trend,” said Kessler.

The French telco landscape has become increasingly competitive due to SFR’s big push into content since it was acquired by Altice. Vivendi-owned pay TV group Canal Plus and TF1 also have aggressive content acquisition strategies.

The company, which operates the film division, Orange Studio and the pay TV group Orange Cinema Series, is also getting ready to invest in TV drama, either by co-financing, co-producing or selling worldwide, said David Kessler, who runs Orange Studio.

Kessler didn’t disclose the annual budget for TV drama investment but said it would be more than 10 million euros ($8.9 million). Their investment into film totals about 20 million euros ($17.8 million) per year.

Just before Cannes, Orange Cinema Series made an exclusive, multi-year deal for all of HBO shows. That deal, which was reportedly very costly, underscored OCS’s committment to offer exclusive content to its subscribers.

OCS is already involved in premium series (mostly half-hour shows) and has been collaborating with several French producers such as Empreinte Digitale, which recently delivered sci-fi series “Missions.” That series world premiered at MipTV and won the TV Critics Award. Orange Studio will now be working hand-in-hand with OCS on one-hour drama production, Kessler said.

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