Netflix Picks France to Test First Linear Offering

By Elsa Keslassy

Netflix has chosen France to test its first channel offering.

Named Direct, the linear channel — which is only available to subscribers — will air French, international and U.S. feature films and TV series that are available on the streaming service. However, the channel will only be accessible via the service’s web browser, unlike its streaming service, which is found on set-top boxes thanks to distribution deals with French telco groups such as Orange, Canal Plus and SFR.

The initiative marks Netflix’s first foray into real-time, scheduled programming. The service previously tested the option Shuffle Play, which wasn’t in real time but featured recommended programming to a sample of international users, explained a source at Netflix. The difference this time around is that the test is being localized in one country, rather than a sample of users.

On its website, Netflix said it chose France to test its first linear channel due to the “consumption of traditional TV [in France].”

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“In France, watching traditional TV remains hugely popular with people who just want a ‘lean back’ experience where they don’t have to choose shows,” said Netflix.

“We’re trying a new feature for our members in France – called ‘Direct.’ Maybe you’re not in the mood to decide, or you’re new and finding your way around, or you just want to be surprised by something new and different, said Netflix.

During lockdown, Netflix subscriptions skyrocketed around the world. The service may be testing the channel to see if it allows it to retain subscribers who may feel fatigued after having binge-watched the titles that were recommended to them through the algorithm. This new linear feature may also appeal to older demographics that make up a significant portion of households in France.

The test channel had a soft launch on Nov. 5 and will be more broadly available in France early December, said Netflix. A key European market for the streaming giant, the SVOD is believed to have around 9 million subscribers in France.

The streaming company opened an office in France in January and vowed to increase its investment in French content. Some of its highest-rated French originals include “Family Business” and “Plan Coeur” (The Hook Up Plan). The company’s original film roster also includes Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s next movie, “Big Bug,” which started shooting last month.