French legislation imposing a 36-month delay between a film’s theatrical release and its availability on a SVOD service seen as obstacle to growth in the market.  

Canal Plus will launch a subscription-based video on demand service (SVOD), CanalPlay Infinity, on Nov 8.

The move is seen as an attempt by the Pay-TV giant to establish itself as a major player in the French SVOD market ahead of the arrival of US operators such as Netflix, Apple or Google. 

“We anticipate an evolution in our market thanks to the emergence of connected TVs which are going to become more and more numerous and lead to new viewing habits,” Canal Plus president Bertrand Meheut [pictured] told a press conference last week.

CanalPlay Infinity will offer a selection of some 2,000 films and 700 TV shows per month drawn mainly from Canal Plus’ catalogue but also including TV series first seen on French broadcasters TF1, M6 and France Televisions.

Meheut said the group was currently in negotiations with five big Hollywood studios as well as a number of French producers to include their content on the service.

The new subscription service, offering an unlimited number of films and TV shows, will cost €9.99 per month.

Initially, it will only be available SFR’s IPTV platform but Canal Plus plans to roll it out onto the IPTV platforms of other Internet providers including Bouygues and Free before the end of the year.

Local digital experts warn, meanwhile, that French legislation imposing a 36-month delay between a film’s theatrical release and its availability on a SVOD service will seriously hamper growth in the market.

They say viewers will continue to turn to pay-to-watch VOD services on which recent films are available four months after their release.

In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper published on Oct 17, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said his company’s service would arrive in France eventually but it was not a priority territory due to the strict regulatory environment.

“We’ll be everywhere,” he said. “But we haven’t decided in what order. We will concentrate on markets where high-speed Internet access is well developed or the economic context is favourable. In France, for the time being, the market is a bit too regulated.”

He added, however, that Netflix was extremely interested in Spain, a territory “ravaged by piracy” to which his company “had the tools to respond.”

In the meantime, Internet cinema portal Allocine is also set to launch a SVOD service in France this month in the shape of iCinema. The service will offer more that 10,000 films and TV shows, including titles from Pathé, Gaumont and Warner Bros.