When OCS entered the scene in France in November 2008, the media landscape looked wholly different. Netflix sent DVDs by mail; “The Sopranos” had come to an end, robbing HBO of a flagship title; and French viewers would sometimes have to wait weeks — or months — to catch up on the buzziest international series.
Much has changed in the intervening decade, and the pay TV bouquet played a significant role in affecting one major shift.
In 2012, OCS sought to curb the threat of online piracy by instituting the US+24 service, airing episodes of HBO’s newest flagship series “Game of Thrones” within a day of its U.S. premiere.
Both the media landscape and the pay TV service have continued to innovate and evolve since then, but one thing has remained a constant ever since OCS launched wielding an output deal from a certain premium cable operator.
“Our backbone is HBO, and that will remain a central part of our identity,” says Boris Duchesnay, OCS’ programming director.
“We have a deal with HBO that has grown over the years. We started with a simple output deal and transformed that into total exclusivity. We have all of their programs and they don’t go anywhere else. And more, we offer their entire catalog on subscription VOD. That’s an integral part of our DNA, and it won’t change.”
In 2017, OCS signed a new deal with HBO, securing the latter’s full catalog well into the future. At the same time, those partners will head into a future short of one flagship series.
While OCS now offers episodes of “Game of Thrones” in simulcast with the U.S., the massively popular series will draw to a close following a six-episode run beginning this April.
“No doubt it stings to say goodbye to ‘Game of Thrones,’ but we are excited by HBO’s upcoming lineup,” Duchesnay says.
“We have standout series that draw viewers, and we’ll have them throughout the entire year.”
Beyond such upcoming offerings as “Westworld,” “Watchmen,” “Big Little Lies” and “True Detective,” OCS also has exclusive rights for non-HBO series including “Atlanta,” “The Walking Dead” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” — buzzy titles that hold commensurate appeal to the same audiences enamored by “Game of Thrones.”
And while Orange’s pay TV service has made a point of delivering subscribers one-stop-shopping for the most celebrated titles from across the pond, it has also taken care to invest in local productions.
The service produces five to six 30-minute series a year through its OCS Signature arm, offering young creators the same deal: A contained budget and boundless creative freedom. Recent hits have included the naturist cop show “Nu,” the sci-fi drama “Missions” and the slacker comedy “Irresponsible.”
“We’re hands-on at the beginning, when developing the first few episodes, but afterwards we’re not going in to re-work every subsequent script,” says Duchesnay.
“We don’t want to lose time, because the market is not just France, it’s worldwide. So we have to secure our place with a flexible working approach adapted to the current landscape.”
Also in 2017, Orange CEO Stéphane Richard announced the creation of Orange Content, a joint venture between OCS and Orange Studio that would invest €100 million ($114 million) in prestige productions over a period of five years for series to be broadcast on OCS platforms.
The group plans to invest in international and local, French-language series, all with an eye toward audacious fare that can travel abroad.
This year, they will broadcast the Umberto Eco adaptation “The Name of the Rose,” a John Turturro led series budgeted at $29.5 million and co-produced with Italy’s RAI television network.
While contracts stipulate that the show airs in Italy first, OCS subscribers won’t have long to wait in order to get their fix.