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French broadcasters yanking content off Netflix to build their own streaming service

France’s major broadcasting companies have struck a deal with producers that will allow them to remove their content from streaming services — including Netflix and Amazon — so it can be shown exclusively on their own competitive platform, which is still in the works.

Last summer, French broadcasters France Télévisions, M6 et TF1 unveiled plans for Salto. This OTT service would be like Netflix, but focused on French content, presumably for viewers in France. The deal was yet another sign of the growing resentment in Europe, particularly in creative fields, about the loss of control to U.S. tech giants.

Last October, for instance, Delphine Ernotte, CEO of France Télévisions, proclaimed her frustration that so much of the network’s content was showing up on overseas services. “We must stop dancing with the devil Netflix,” she said. And the European Union has adopted rules requiring all such streaming service to carry at least 30 percent local content. That metric could get harder to reach without the French TV shows.

Beyond cultural issues, the tussle with services like Netflix goes to the heart of how France funds such cultural activities. France Télévisions owns the channels France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5, and France Ô. The company makes money from both advertising and a TV license fee. It also funds a healthy chunk of TV production.

As viewers drift away, or watch that content on other platforms, this carefully calibrated model is being eroded. Salto was proposed to allow the partners to restore some balance, and to better recoup their investments.

But they first needed to get the producers on board. That finally happened today, according to a story in Paris-based Le Figaro.

Currently, these broadcasters had limited rights in terms of how they could rebroadcast content via services like their own website or on cable box replay services, a horizon sometimes as short as seven days for the latter. In some cases, a show that appeared on French TV is available on Netflix a week later.

The producers agreed to give the Salto partners much more extensive and exclusive rights over the content, so viewers can binge-watch a French series for several years after it appears. That will essentially block French producers from selling the same content to Netflix, Amazon, and others.

In return, the partners agreed to increase the amount of programming they purchase from independent producers from 75 percent to 82.5 percent.

While that’s settled, there are still numerous questions surrounding Salto. When will it launch? How much will it cost? Where will it be available? And it’s possible that while Salto might make financial sense, it could curtail the size of the audiences for shows if they are not widely available to international audiences.

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