FT-Orange rolls out Welles VOD site

Video-streamed content offered free-of-charge

Gallic telco giant France Telecom-Orange is to launch a video-on-demand website called Welles.

Managed at FT-Orange subsid Orange Vallee, the service — which takes its name from Orson Welles — will be running by year-end, according to Jean-Louis Constanza, Orange Vallee CEO.

Welles will offer free, advertising-supported streaming of popular, older TV shows, docus and movies plus some high-premium paid-for content from a library of 500,000 items. It will also host consumer-generated content and soccer-networking facilities.

Welles has been billed in some quarters as the French equivalent of Hulu, which offers ad-supported streaming video of TV shows and movies from NBC and Fox among others. But Constanza denies that this is so.

“The model in some ways is more Netflix than Hulu. We’re not looking at showing (new shows such as) ‘Heroes’ or ‘Lost,’ ” he said. Infact Welles’ biggest rival may be the Gallic equivalent of YouTube, DailyMotion.

“Welles is a natural extension of Orange’s multiscreen approach, which it’s been developing over the past two years,” said Dan Cryan, at London-based analysts Screen Digest.

One question is whether Orange will move into high-premium website content, which offers large growth potential in France.

Gaul’s only two ad-driven premium content services are operated by broadcasters M6 and TF1.