French pay TV service Canal Plus made headlines on March 16 when it announced it would be free for two weeks during the country’s lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, but four days later, the company said it had to stop the special offer.
Several industry sources told Variety Canal Plus was urged to go back to being a pay TV group because the free offer disrupted the country’s window policy and the chain of rights. Indeed, the current policy sets the window for pay TV at four months and the one for free-to-air channels at 22 months.
But for the last four days, Canal Plus has been freely showing movies that have been bought by free-to-air channels such as TF1 and M6 and were supposed to air in 22 months. One of the films which triggered uproar from M6 is “The Lion King” which M6 bought from Disney at a premium price. The movie was due to air on Canal Plus in the next few days. After industry guilds and TV channels protested against Canal Plus, the Vivendi-owned company said its dedicated channels including Canal Plus Family and Canal Plus Cinema would no longer be free starting Saturday morning. The flagship channel Canal Plus and Canal Plus Series, with programming including hit show “The Bureau,” will remain free until March 30.
France’s window release policy is currently being discussed as industry professionals and film orgs are contemplating allowing a VOD release for films which can’t screen in theaters due to the lockdown. Under the current regulations, movies would have to come out in theaters first before landing on an transactional VOD service four months later.
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French theaters have been shut down since last Sunday, as well as shops, restaurants and schools.