Variety partnered with U.K.-based consultancy Ampere Analysis to delve into the top local and regional ad-supported and pay TV services that are competing with behemoths like Netflix and Amazon. For more, click here.
In France’s competitive market, OCS, the pay TV service of French telco Orange, has been able to lure more than 3 million subscribers, becoming the country’s biggest local SVOD service.
Netflix, which launched in 2014 in France and now counts almost 8 million subs, has a content library of films and series that’s nearly eight times the size of OCS’, but that hasn’t quashed the local’s momentum.
Though it’s not yet profitable, the 11-year-old OCS has kept itself afloat thanks to a well-curated offering of premium content that differs from Netflixtitles. OCS skews younger than the average French consumer, with more than half its users age 34 or under — and more affluent than Netflix’s subscribers, according to Ampere Analysis.
The local streamer’s exclusive deal with HBO has given OCS a solid competitive edge, allowing it to sustain subscriptions despite the local launches of Netflix and Amazon. Both OCS and Netflix cost 11.99 euros ($13.87) per month.
The deal with HBO, whose exclusive first-window content accounts for roughly 30% of the OCS library, could terminate at the end of
2021. However, a senior Orange executive tells Variety that HBO is expected to renew its pact with the streamer, just as it did with Sky in the U.K. Meanwhile, HBO Max isn’t likely to launch as a standalone service in France anytime soon.
Also key to the OCS offering is an output deal with Sony Pictures Television for blockbuster series and films — a multiyear pact struck in 2015 that covers exclusive first-window rights to the U.S. studio’s movies and TV series.
OCS partly owes its popularity with younger audiences to its roster of innovative local half-hour series developed under its OCS Signature banner. Spearheaded by Boris Duchesnay, deputy managing director and head of programming and acquisitions at OCS, the label has, for the past seven years, been the driving force behind shows made by up-and-coming French producers and talent, notably the award-winning science-fiction series “Missions.”
OCS has also joined forces with Orange Content, the telco group’s film division, to co-produce bigger, internationally driven series. In 2017, the company committed to investing 100 million euros in drama over five years, kicking off with the Italian series “The Name of the Rose” and more recently debuting financial thriller series “Devils,” starring Patrick Dempsey.
Of its competitors, OCS had the greatest proportion of local content, according to Ampere’s May figures, with 26% of its hours across movies and TV shows primarily produced in France. SFR Play had 18% and Canal Plus Séries had 17%. Amazon Prime and Netflix were far behind, with 9% and 3% local content, respectively.
“Since we have a hybrid model mixing linear and subscription VOD consumption, we have to invest in local content and, in exchange, can access fresh movies only four months after their theatrical releases on transactional VOD,” says Duchesnay. “It’s a real bonus, which gives us some leverage to attract subscribers, because in France, unlike in Spain or Italy, audiences have a big appetite for local movies.”
OCS is mainly owned by Orange (66.6%), with Vivendi’s Canal Plus accounting for the other 33.3%. Until Dec. 31, Canal Plus was a silent shareholder due to antitrust guidelines, but Vincent Bolloré’s pay TV group is now expected to play a more active role in spearheading the OCS strategy. Some senior analysts, including François Godard at Enders Analysis, have said it would make sense for Canal Plus to buy out Orange’s stake in OCS, while other industry insiders continue to raise the specter of a merger between OCS and Canal Plus’ thematic channels.
OCS has benefited from Orange’s aggressive distribution strategy, which has also placed the service on Bouygues, SFR and Free. Since 2012, Canal Plus Group’s satellite platform has offered OCS as a standalone among its portfolio of channels.