The deal, which was first reported in the French newspaper Les Echos and confirmed by Canal Plus Group CEO Maxime Saada on his Twitter account, marks a new chapter in Canal Plus and Disney’s long-term relationship. The two companies have already had a programming agreement for many years, giving Canal Plus access to films from Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios, Pixar and Lucasfilm.
Under the new agreement, Canal Plus will be the sole distributor of Disney Plus in France, which means that other telco groups such as Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free will have to go through Canal Plus to access the service. Canal Plus will also continue to have exclusive rights to Disney content, including the “Star Wars” and “Avengers” movies, and will also be the only distributor of Disney channels in France, including Disney Channel and Disney Junior, and will keep distributing the National Geographic, Voyage and Fox Play channels.
Disney also has licensing deals in other key European markets, such as with Sky in the U.K., Italy and Germany. It remains to be seen how these deals will affect Disney Plus’ content in those markets until the deals expire.
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Partnering with Canal Plus Group marks an important step for Disney Plus in France, where most pay-TV subscribers use boxes to access content. Netflix, for instance, already has distribution deals with all of France’s telco services – Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free – while Amazon Prime Video recently sealed deals with SFR and Free.
The pact with Disney Plus follows Canal Plus Group’s recent deal with Netflix and underscores the French pay-TV group’s strategy to strike alliances with deep-pocketed streaming giants and potential rivals in order to position themselves as aggregators of premium services and content. Under Saada’s leadership, Canal Plus Group has been on a drive to recruit more subscribers in France, first by launching cheaper packages to lure millennials, then by forging ties with other local telcos, such as Free and OCS, and lastly by signing a distribution and sub-licensing deal with beIN Sports to gain access to football rights.