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Orange Partners With Canal Plus on New Package, Lays Ground for New Content Division

PARIS – Faced with rising competition from Altice in France, leading telco Orange and pay-TV group Canal Plus are joining forces to launch Canal + Essentiel, a new package making Canal Plus core channels available to Orange’s fiber customers.

Set to kick off in a few months, Canal + Essentiel will be accessible to Orange Fiber customers “without commitment and at a competitive price.” For the first time, Orange will handle subscriptions directly for the package. The partnership follows Canal Plus’ previous carriage deal with Orange for Famille by Canal, which was launched in 2016.

The new initiative was unveiled during a news conference Tuesday hosted by Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO of Orange, who laid the ground for Orange Content, a newly created umbrella division that groups together all of Orange’s entertainment businesses.

“Orange Content aims to guarantee the richness of our offer in France and abroad and to give more visibility and consistency to our offers in the field of content,” said Richard. “Since its launch in 2008, OCS has pursued an intensive partnership policy and it supports the entire film industry, from production to distribution.”

The big news of the press conference was the group’s decision to bank on drama series. Richard said Orange will invest 100 million euros in original French and international TV shows via co-production over five years.

Richard said that in 2013, OCS committed to investing 179 million euros ($205 million) in French and European films through 2018.

As previously announced during the Cannes Film Festival, Orange Content will be headed by David Kessler, who serves as director, and Serge Laroye, who serves as deputy director of the new division. Kicking off on Sept. 1, Orange Content will have five key roles: trends analysis, rights acquisitions, management and development of a production/publishing unit, R&D for new formats, and monitoring content turnover wherever Orange operates.

Aiming to become a vertically integrated company such as Gaumont, Studiocanal and TF1 Studio, Orange Studio is also diving into international sales and direct distribution, thanks to its deal with UGC Images, a subsidiary of Europe’s second-biggest cinema circuit.

Orange said it extended that pact with UGC Images to allow OCS to gains first-window rights to UGC Images’ pics, notably “Gaston Lagaffe” and the sequel to “Serial (Bad) Weddings.”

Now boasting 2.5 million subscribers, OCS will showcase exclusive content from HBO, Sony Pictures, as well as mainstream French movies from UGC Images.

Orange also announced it was renewing its partnership with the Cannes Film Festival for another three years, as well as the Lumière Film Festival in Lyon, which is headed by Thierry Fremaux, artistic director of Cannes. Orange will be a partner of the Institut Lumière for the next three years.

As one of the major backers of Luc Besson’s upcoming film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (pictured), Orange’s SVOD service has exclusive pay-TV rights to the film in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and has VOD rights for France.

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