By Julien Ponthus and Leila Abboud
PARIS Dec 4 Online video company Netflix
met with the French president's staff on Tuesday to
discuss a possible launch of its streaming service in Europe's
third-largest market, in what would be a blow to traditional
Netflix, which was created in the United States and is now
available in 41 countries, has to-date focused on
English-speaking markets in Europe such as Britain, the
Netherlands, and the Nordics, although rumours of their arrival
in France have been recurrent for years.
"Netflix wanted information about the legal conditions that
would affect its potential arrival in France," an official at
the president's office said, adding that the executives were
also visiting Germany and other European countries.
Netflix sells monthly subscriptions that allow users to
watch television series and movies via the Internet on their
televisions, tablet computers and mobile phones.
The service poses a challenge to traditional television
companies that rely on advertising as well as pay-TV operators,
and has been criticised by telecom companies for overloading
their broadband networks with traffic.
If Netflix were to launch in France, it would face a complex
system of rules on when movies can be released in different
formats such as in cinemas or on DVD. The framework, which dates
back decades, is aimed at protecting French movie producers and
cinemas, and does not affect TV series.
Under current rules, a film cannot appear in an on-demand
video service that is bought as a monthly subscription until
three years after its debut in cinemas.
But if a consumer rents the video of the same film using his
set-top box, for example, it would be available four months
after its premiere.
The long delays for movies by subscription have so far
crippled attempts to launch video streaming services in France.
Vivendi's Canal Plus, France's largest pay-TV service,
created one in 2011 called Canal Play Infinity that has
attracted few users.
A recent study commissioned by the French culture ministry
recommended shortening the delays, and discussions are ongoing
with content owners and media companies.
The official said Netflix executives used the meeting in
Paris on Wednesday to ask questions about the local rules to
"better understand the French system".
Netflix was not reachable for comment outside of business
hours at their California headquarters.
Vivendi shares were down 1.8 percent at 1258 GMT.
Broadcasters TF1 and M6 were down 3.8
percent and 1.7 percent respectively. The French blue-chip CAC
40 index was down 1 percent, while the European media
index was down 0.9 percent.