Authority calls time on Orange exclusivity
By Julian Clover
The French competition authority, L’Autorité de la concurrence, has proposed a cut off period of one or two years after which Orange should be forced to distribute its content to other platforms.
The France Telecom-owned IPTV operator had tied its Orange Sports and Orange Cinema Series channels to its triple play offer. The strategy had angered rivals Canal Plus, SFR and Free, which took the matter to the courts, the Paris Commercial court ruling in February that the offers could not be linked. However, Orange was later able to overturn the ruling on appeal.
On Tuesday the competition authority reacted to the French government’s request as to whether the ruling could pose a risk to fair competition, describing the Orange business model as “questionable”.
“The dual exclusivity (content and access) is a restriction of consumer choice, who can no longer have access to all the attractive content or is obligated to pay much more for universal access to content,” the authority said in a statement. “Orange’s strategy runs the risk of destabilising the broadband market at the expense of competing operators”.
Although the opinion of the competition authority is advisory, it does carry significant weight.