Warner, HBO connect with Orange

French pay TV company seeks product

CANNES — Warner Bros. Intl. TV and HBO have inked a ground-breaking exclusive multi-year deal to supply product to France Telecom Orange’s new premium pay TV service, Orange Cinema Service.

Deal, which was announced Monday at Mip TV, will be 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 alternative to Canal Plus’ Le Bouquet, a six premium channel package.

OCS is expected to launch fourth quarter 2008.

Pact is the first Orange has inked with a U.S. partner. It already has signed up a wide selection of library films from French major Gaumont and new movies from Fidelite Films.

From WBITD, 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.”

The HBO accord is the U.S. paybox’s first-ever output deal in France. It includes heavyweight high-end offers such as the $100 million miniseries “John Adams,” the upcoming Alan Ball series, “True Blood,” and David Simon’s mini “Generation Kill,” plus select docus and library titles.

HBO plans to make around half a dozen new series pilots in 2008, said Charles Schreger, HBO prexy, programming sales. So FT-Orange could be tapping into a rich vein of new programming.

The HBO deal was facilitated by the paybox pulling back all international sales under its own roof, Simon Sutton, president, programming distribution and international, said in Cannes.

HBO had originally envisaged selling programming “a la carte,” added Schreger. “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,” Schreger said, describing the deal price with FT as “very competitive.”

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

Orange boasts one of Europe’s biggest roll-outs in mobile TV and IPTV. It has 1.2 million IPTV clients, and around 500,000 mobile TV consumers.

Orange Cinema Services will be offered on these platforms, on a subscription and video-on-demand basis.

Limited bandwidth impedes nationwide penetration of Orange’s IPTV service.

In January, French financial daily Les Echos reported conversations between France Telecom-Orange and Astra and Eutelsat, Europe’s two major satellite systems, for satellite carriage of Orange’s pay TV offer.