French broadcasters can breathe a sigh of relief as the country’s regulator gave the green light to plans to join forces to create a digital platform to challenge Netflix. But the competition regulator has stipulated strong conditions to the service’s programming, distribution, and advertising.

The idea first surfaced over a year ago, as reported by Le Monde, when representatives of France Télévisions, a state-owned broadcaster, and the privately-owned channels TF1 and M6 announced plans for a “Netflix à la française”: a subscription service that would pool the resources of the country’s largest free-to-air channels to feature both digital linear channels and an SVOD service.

Since then, the project has taken on the name Salto and is slated to launch in 2020 now that the competition authority has authorised the project, which was spearheaded by France Télévisions chief Delphine Ernotte Cunci.

“Now that Salto has been approved, we will at last be able to put together Team France in broadcasting, which I have been longing for,” she said in a press release. “The launch of the platform will very soon give us what we need to compete against international players on our own territory. And it will be a new way for the French and European creative industries to engage with their public.”

Meanwhile, Nicolas de Tavernost, chairman of the executive board of M6 Group noted the group’s newly sanctioned ability to create a platform “in phase with changing usage”. The service will offer another stream through which to capture a return on the content investments of the country’s free-to-air broadcasters both through subscription revenue and advertising.

However, the regulator – l’Autorité de la Concurrence – has imposed key conditions. The three parent companies will have to sell ad inventory on fair and non-discriminatory terms There will also be limits on the ability of those broadcasters to promote the service on its terrestrial channels.

Further, the service will only be able to offer a maximum of just 40% of content from parent companies, while data sharing between the joint venture and its parents will be what is strictly necessary.

Notably, the regulator has stipulated restrictions on the ability of partners to combine purchasing rights, or for the joint venture to benefit from contractual agreements among its parent companies.

All three companies will have to continue to make their channels available to third-party distributors on fair terms. Two independent experts will regulate payments of Salto to broadcasters.

The approval follows news of a similar project in the UK, Britbox, which is awaiting a regulatory green light before a planned launch in the UK later this year. It is already available in the US.

Sourced from Le Monde, WARC