Canal Plus will close its pioneering SVoD service CanalPlay in the coming months, due to falling subscription numbers in the face of competition from global players led by Netflix and Amazon, CEO Maxime Saada has revealed.
Saada dropped the news this week during a hearing with the culture commission of the French senate around the topic of the legislation governing the country’s audiovisual sector.
Canal Plus first launched the service in November 2011 in a bid to build a strong position in the French SVoD market ahead of the arrival of global giants like Netflix, which eventually launched in the territory in September 2014.
At its peak, CanalPlay had some 800,000 subscribers but numbers have fallen to just 200,000 subscribers in the wake of Netflix’s arrival, Saada told the commission. He said French regulations preventing CanalPlay from offering Canal Plus’s high-end originals on the service in the early years of its existence had hindered the ability of the service to compete with the global digital players. “At the moment when Netflix arrived on French soil, the only French SVoD player at the time was CanalPlay,” he said. ”It had 800,000 subscribers, and we were banned from including originals in the face of Netflix and Amazon.”
He was referring to the fact that up until the middle of last year Canal Plus did not have the right to show original high-end TV shows, such as Versailles, on the platform under French law. Saada said the change in the legislation had come too late for CanalPlay. “This injunction has just been lifted by the authority but I’ve told them it’s too late… CanalPlay has gone from 800,000 subscribers to 200,000 subscribers. It’s over for CanalPlay. In two years, it has been erased from this market which is in the process of replacing that of television,” he told the commission.
Saada’s comments have added fuel to France’s ongoing debate on how the country should update its audiovisual laws – governing media windows as well as funding commitments – to fit the challenges of the digital age. ’Netflix has killed CanalPlay’, ’CanalPlay throws in the sponge in the face of Netflix’ and ’CanalPlay is dead, Netflix claims its first big victim’ were some of the headlines in France as local media reacted to the news although some questioned whether Saada’s analysis of the causes for CanalPlay’s demise was correct.
Beyond CanalPlay, there are some 60-odd platforms operating in France including SFR Play, Videofutur, and specialist platforms such as Wild Bunch’s cinema-focused Filmo TV. According to a study released by the National Cinema Centre (CNC) during the Cannes Film Festival this May, France’s SVoD market was worth €249m ($290m) by the end of June 2017. In an up-to-date figure, CNC chief Fréderique Bredin said at the presentation of the study that the CNC had estimated that Netflix controlled 70% of the market with some 3.5 million subscribers.
The streaming giant’s presence in France has divided the local audiovisual industry with some welcoming its disruptive model while others fear it will lead to the dismantling of a film financing ecosystem that has made France’s cinema industry the envy of the world.