You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

French Start-Up Aims to Woo Cord-Cutters by Becoming the Spotify of TV

In a market as heavily regulated as France, where Netflix faced tremendous resistance ahead of its launch in September 2014, introducing a disruptive, digital TV service seems like mission impossible, but not to Jean-David Blanc and Pierre Lescure, the co-founders of AlloCine and pay TV giant Canal Plus, respectively.

Lescure, now president of the Cannes Film Festival, and Blanc, an angel investor in startups, have raised €10 million ($11 million) — mainly from Paris-based private equity investment firm Idinvest — and have succeeded in getting most French TV groups onboard their subscription OTT service, Molotov.tv. Pay services Canal Plus, Orange Cinema Series and beIN Sports are in negotiations to be distributed by the service.

Blanc and Lescure are looking to raise an additional $100 million, and are considering making the U.S. Molotov’s first international market. The company’s founding team also includes Jean-Marc Denoual, formerly of French broadcaster TF1, and Kevin Kuipers, who formed the gaming site Gamekult and social-media site Sens Critique.

Molotov.tv is being described as the Spotify of television, a subscription OTT service that allows users to stream live TV programs — including soccer — broadcast on nearly every French TV channel on their computers, mobiles or tablets. Like Spotify, users can sort content based on individual tastes, favorite actors, TV shows, movie genres or friends’ recommendations. Unlike content streaming services such as Hulu, Molotov.tv also allows users to bookmark shows, and boasts a recommendation algorithm and a social-media component that connects users to people they know, and showcases buzzy programs, and scenes that have created the largest activity peaks on Twitter.

Molotov.tv’s primary goal will be to lure millennials, who are watching less and less TV, says Blanc.

France is in fact a good market in which to launch Molotov.tv for one basic reason: quality TV content is abundant, Blanc says. Indeed, as Lescure points out, France’s TV broadcasters invest about $3.5 billion in programs, and pay TV channels such as Canal Plus invest an estimated $2.9 billion. “But most programs don’t reach audiences, who are often tired of zapping and sifting through every channel,” he maintains.

It took Molotov.tv’s team about 18 months to enlist the bulk of its TV channel participants. “We highlighted the erosion of ratings on traditional TV, explained how we would remain distributors and not editors, and pitched a modern business model where we don’t sell ads. The idea is not to make money off TV channels’ content,” Blanc says. In fact, Molotov.tv has applied to France’s broadcasting authorities to obtain the legal status of distributor. As such, they’ll pay tax from subscription earnings, and pay royalties to various rights holders’ orgs.

So how will Molotov.tv get its revenue?

“A freemium model,” Blanc explains. Content from free-to-air channels will be accessible to anyone, and content from pay TV channels will be available to subscribers of those services. Blanc says that pay TV channels will give Molotov.tv a distribution commission, and Molotov.tv will share revenues with pay TV channels when they generate new subs who sign up through the Molotov.tv service.

Blanc declines to give the number of subscribers needed for the platform to break even, although he allows that they are targeting millions in the market.

The service will be geo-blocked, but if a channel has global rights to programs, such shows will become available in those territories for a duration varying between seven to 30 days — depending on the catch-up windows on each network.

The next step for Molotov.tv will be to integrate content from Web platforms such as YouTube.

The plan is to expand the geographical footprint of Molotov well beyond France. “We’ve already started approaching international TV groups, and the discussions are going well,” Blanc says.

The market might get overly competitive really fast, however, with Apple developing a live TV service (though that launch has been pushed back to 2016). “We share the same vision, and provide a different answer. I believe what we offer will be much different than Apple TV,” says Blanc.

And the step after that? To give Netflix a run for its money.

More Digital

  • Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese

    Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese Video Platform Bilibili

    Alibaba has purchased an 8% stake in the Chinese online video platform Bilibili, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Bilibili is one of China’s top video streaming and entertainment platforms, with about 92 million monthly active users and 450 million page-views per day. Founded in 2009, it was listed on the NASDAQ last March. Alibaba’s [...]

  • Clevver-Logo

    Hearst Magazines Buys Clevver's Pop-Culture YouTube Channels After Defy's Demise

    Hearst Magazines has snapped up Clevver, a network of female-skewing lifestyle and pop-culture news YouTube channels that had been owned by now-defunct Defy Media. Clevver was left homeless after Defy’s sudden shutdown in November; its principals said at the time they were looking for a new home. Hearst Magazines sees a digital fit with Clevver’s [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Rhett-Link-Good-Mythical-Morning

    Rhett & Link's Mythical Entertainment in Talks to Acquire Smosh (EXCLUSIVE)

    Smosh, the YouTube comedy brand left stranded after parent company Defy Media went belly-up, may be about to get a new business partner. Mythical Entertainment, the entertainment company founded by top YouTube comedy duo Rhett & Link, has been in talks about acquiring the Smosh brand, sources told Variety. Multiple potential buyers came forward to [...]

  • Pokemon Go

    Proposed 'Pokémon Go' Lawsuit Settlement May Remove Poké Stops, Gyms

    A proposed settlement in the class action lawsuit against “Pokémon Go” developer Niantic could remove or change a number of Poké Stops and Gyms in the popular augmented reality game. The proposed settlement was filed in a California court on Thursday and applies to anyone in the U.S. who owns or leases property within 100 meters [...]

  • Skyline of Doha at night with

    Qatar's beIN Rallies Support From U.S. Companies Against Pirate Broadcaster beoutQ

    Qatari powerhouse beIN Media Group has rallied support from American sports and entertainment entities, including Discovery and Fox, behind its request that the U.S. government place Saudi Arabia on its watch list of top intellectual property offenders. The Doha-based broadcaster, a state-owned spinoff of Al Jazeera news network, accuses the Saudi government of harboring pirate broadcaster [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content