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The French VoD paradox

France Télévisions looks set to become the latest entrant to the French Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) market with news that the broadcaster is working on launch of a new service this year. But France is a challenging market for SVoD and despite French regulatory measures to protect cultural identity, language and culture within the audio-visual market, being local doesn’t seem to guarantee success. Indeed, it is a US company in the form of Netflix that dominates the French Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) market. Netflix’s 2m French subscribers contrasts starkly with local CanalPlay’s fewer than 600,000. CanalPlay also trails Netflix in most relevant metrics, such as original content, catalogue size and perceived quality as well as net promoter score (NPS).
 
So what has led to this disparity in performance? The end of CanalPlay’s deal with SFR led to a reduction in reach after SFR launched its own-branded SVoD service, SFR Play. Further, even a group with the size and power of Vivendi struggles to match Netflix’s clout when it comes to negotiating global content deals. 
 
Perhaps more importantly, the French VoD market underperforms its peers, despite the nominally strong foundation for VoD in the country. Even with one of most developed markets for broadband infrastructure and high pay TV penetration, VoD has seen limited success compared to other similar markets. Of all the countries surveyed by Ampere, French consumers spend the least amount of their viewing time on VoD, a challenge every entrant must wrestle with.