PARIS: France Telecom has launched five new pay-TV channels as part of its rapid expansion into content provision, a move its worried rivals argue is unfairly strengthened by its position as a former telecoms monopoly.

The new channels, dubbed the Orange Cinema Series after the company's mobile network, offer a mixture of hit TV shows and a broad range of films.

France Telecom currently operates a digital IPTV service, which broadcasts national channels as well as its own output, which includes exclusive deals to show certain content from Warner Bros and HBO.

Speaking earlier this year, the company's ceo, Didier Lombard, said: "Everyone has become a media company. Content is the oxygen of our networks."

Critics including Canal Plus, the only other major operator in the French pay-TV market, complain that France Telecom is using revenues and infrastructural advantages, dating back to its telecoms monopoly days, to drive current growth.

Benoit Flamant, ceo of IT Asset Management, says: "France Telecom is the most aggressive in the content strategy. Going into content is a frontal attack on Canal Plus, which perceives it that way."

The French government is also currently undertaking an assessment as to whether exclusive deals between content providers and networks like France Telecom unfairly limit consumer choice.

Flamant concludes that France Telecom's approach is "obviously a risk", given that if regulators decide exclusive deals are not acceptable, its "whole strategy would be void."

Data sourced from (France); additional content by WARC staff