TF1 Retransmission Fee Dispute

French broadcaster TF1 has warned telecom operators and pay TV operator Canal+ that it will pull its signal from their services unless they agree to pay retransmission fees, according to French press reports.

According to financial daily Les Echos, TF1 has threatened to withdraw its flagship channel and digital services TMC, NT1, HD1 and LCI, initially from multiscreen distribution via tablets, smartphones and PCs – possibly from the end of this month, between the rounds of the country’s presidential election.

TF1 has also threatened to cut the signal delivered via the IPTV set-tops of certain operators this summer if the latter fail to agree to pay fees, according to the paper.

The commercial broadcaster has communicated its intention to cut the TV service to Orange, SFR and Canal+, but has not yet threatened Free with this. Bouygues Telecom, whose parent Bouygues is TF1’s owner, will continue to distribute its services.

TF1 and the country’s other main commercial broadcaster, M6, demanded retransmission fees from the country’s operators a year ago, but the latter have resisted any move in this direction to date, arguing that they should not have to pay for channels that are distributed free on the digital-terrestrial network.

TF1 for its part argues that telcos and pay TV operators, some of whom have paid huge sums to secure sports rights, should pay for channels that attract large audiences to their networks. About half of all French homes receive TV via an operator set-top box.

TF1 and M6 have been trying to diversify their revenues as the traditional advertising business comes under pressure. TF1’s contracts with SFR and Canal+ for multiscreen OTT deliver are due for renewal first.

M6’s contracts are not up for renewal until the end of the year, meaning it can wait for the outcome of TF1’s negotiations before making any similar threat.

Speaking at MIPTV last week TF1 CEO Gilles Pelisson said that the broadcaster had to adapt to a changing media environment as the long-term decline in linear viewing impacted on advertising, even though “most of the French population” continued to watch terrestrial TV.

The company last month said it intended to focus on developing its thematic channel portfolio to help boost revenues.

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