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21 February 2019

Canal+ in beIN buy rumors, shaking off Netflix embarrassment

After taking a major knock to its consumer-facing business confidence last week as Netflix charged past it, Canal+ has since discussed an ambitious international project as parent company Vivendi has apparently pledged its commitment to the French operator. It didn’t take long to spark reports about acquisition targets – namely a scoop for broadcaster beIN Sports.

Local reports state preliminary discussions are already underway with the Qatari broadcaster, arriving at an awkward time for beIN in the midst of its piracy war with Saudi Arabian authorities concerning the BeoutQ copycat service. Perhaps the backing of a company like Canal+, and subsequently a mass media force in the form of Vivendi, could be exactly the drive required for beIN to win this battle.

Canal+ would inherit a subscriber base of 3.5 million, at a time when the French operator has been shedding domestic subscribers. But would the acquisition of beIN steady the ship in its core French market or rather serve as a booster for its international efforts?

Well, it could align with comments made by Chairman and CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine, outlining plans to take the MyCanal app overseas, a venture he says Vivendi is happy to back due to the obvious need to boost revenues, following a 0.3% fall to €5.2 billion for 2018. Yet Canal+ appears to have got away with murder in terms of revenue decline when you consider it lost 217,000 individual pay TV subscribers in France last year, and an additional 24,000 lost through wholesale partnership deals with Free, Orange and Bouygues Telecom. As a result, its total pay TV base fell to 4.7 million – gifting Netflix the lead now with a reported 5 million subscribers.

Africa is a different case altogether as Canal+ added 652,000 pay TV subscribers across the continent last year, while Vietnam and Myanmar also performed strongly with 95,000 and 60,000 subscribers additions respectively. It is in these regions where the addition of a company like beIN to the Canal+ brand would benefit it most.

Last year was a torrid time for Canal+ as its Canalplay subscriber base took a substantial hit, while it was also forced to terminate the Canalsat offer in favor of the new Canal offers and subscriptions via wholesale partnerships with telecom operators.

It is unusual for one company to speak on behalf of its parent company, and we think such conviction about Vivendi’s intention to continue investing in Canal+, as voiced by de Puyfontaine this week, could come back to bite him. Vivendi is a tumultuous beast in the media landscape as we know and will presumably not take kindly to assertions on its roadmap and specifically where it likes to put its money.

On a semi-related note, Nordic pay TV operator Canal Digital, jointly owned by Canal+ and Telenor, made an intriguing announcement this week talking about a new Android TV upgrade via the adoption of software called SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) from long-term supplier 3 Screen Solutions (3SS).

It says subscribers to the OnePlace UHD pay TV offering, launching a year ago in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, are enjoying enhanced user experiences on their PVRs thanks to “ongoing service innovation” – of which SAFe is being pegged as the latest.

SAFe is described as a practical experience-based software development framework designed to accelerate and optimize system deployments. 3SS says regular workshops, concurrent work streams, and rigorously organized project update sessions, helped inform and motivate all stakeholders in a project – meaning all parties know the status of objectives and where they are in the progress of a detailed roadmap of deliverables.

Henke Erichsen, Canal Digital CTO & CIO, said, “The scaled agile development methodology (SAFe) has been a revelation, and it has ignited a revolution in the way we approach product and technology development at company level. With SAFe, we now have a much more transparent, predictable and efficient development process, and our subscribers are reaping the benefits.”

Canal Digital has also deployed “MixPanel” for OnePlace, an analytics tool from 3SS which enables Canal Digital to capture and analyze user behavior across devices – enabling marketing teams to offer OnePlace subscribers new cross-platform promotional offers closely aligned with individual viewing patterns and preferences. The interface between content management systems and subscriber management is also much improved, it says, ensuring Canal Digital’s in-house commercial teams have up-to-the-minute and accurate billing and payment data.

It’s all go in the Vivendi empire this week, a company which has become synonymous with talking about cultivating an OTT revolution without ever really making waves.