Understand everything in the battle between Free, Orange and BFMTV


The Altice Group, the parent company of BFMTV, RMC Découverte and RMC Story, as well as the operator SFR, and its competitor Iliad, the parent company of Free, as well as the operator Orange, have not managed to reach an agreement concerning the broadcasting of the three channels on the internet box.

"This channel should be available again here soon" : the message is displayed in a white square on a black background. Since Tuesday, August 27, midnight, BFMTV, RMC Discovery and RMC Story, the channels of the group Altice, are no longer available directly on the Freebox. They could soon suffer the same fate on the Livebox, the internet boxes of the operator Orange. Indeed, Stéphane Richard, CEO of the group, said Thursday, Aug. 29 on France 2, he would refuse to pay the group Altice to broadcast the free channels of the group. He thus joins the position expressed by Free, a subsidiary of Iliad.

Has BFMTV totally disappeared from the Freebox?

Yes and no. When a subscriber receives the television via his internet box, the signal passes via the telephone line or the optical fiber, depending on whether it is an ADSL or FttH subscription, and not by the radio antenna, the famous antenna rake. Since the appearance of boxes in the early 2000s, more than half of French households who watch television do so via these boxes. It is on this means of transmission that BFMTV, as well as its little sisters RMC Découverte and RMC Story, are no longer available for Free subscribers.

However, they can still receive these channels if they wish, at the cost of a little manipulation: connect their box on their antenna TV socket, which allows them to receive all free French channels via TNT , digital terrestrial television. The boxes are indeed equipped with a TNT decoder. It will also restart a search channels on the TV, to recalibrate the right frequencies. Free details this procedure on a banner replacing the concerned channels.

What does the Altice group want?

Since 2016, television groups have been trying to get paid for broadcasting their channels via Internet access providers. Because they believe that they make their "triple play" offers (combining internet, telephone and television) a commercial argument to attract subscribers. For Alain Weill, CEO of Altice France and founder of BFMTV, the fundamental question is that of the financing of conventional television channels, shaken by the new modes of consumption and in the first place the arrival of streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

At the beginning of August, the High Court considered that "Free does not have the right to broadcast without permission" the three channels on its networks and ordered the telecom operator to "stop this broadcast, under penalty of 100,000 euros per day late and per channel from August 27". The cut was thus expected, especially since it had been authorized this summer by the Superior council of audio-visual.

What do Illiad and Orange answer?

Telephone operators, for their part, believe that there is no reason to pay for free channels for which television groups do not pay for the use of frequencies, unlike telecom operators for the mobile. The TF1 group suffered the plaster, scrapping with the operators and in particular Orange, before finally signing with the incumbent and then Bouygues Telecom (subsidiary of the Bouygues group, like TF1), SFR (subsidiary of Altice) and Free (group Iliad) as well as Canal +, also concerned. M6 did the same thing in the wake.

For Iliad, if it is acceptable to pay for value-added services, the pay for normally free channels is harder to accept. In addition, the parent company of Free would like to condition the payment of the remuneration to the quality of these services, which it considers for the time being insufficient. The "replay" option, in particular, seems less relevant for a streaming news channel like BFMTV than for entertainment programs.

Same story on Orange's side. "NOTWe consider that there is a balance between the channel editors and the operators we are: by carrying the channels for free, we assure them an audience, without asking for remuneration in return "Said Stephane Richard, Thursday morning. The CEO of Orange recalls for example that the agreement signed with the TF1 and M6 groups concerns "associated services". "I do not want to prejudge the upcoming negotiations that we will have with Altice but for now, (these associated services) there are not any"added Stéphane Richard. "The question is not the amount of the check, we will pay if there is an additional service provided to the consumer, not in the opposite case", he insisted.

How long can this battle last?

The groups will certainly be talking again quickly, because the interruption of the chains of Altice on the Freebox has consequences on the hearings. Especially for BFMTV, usually the leader in continuous news channels.

"We can imagine that the audience of BFMTV will mechanically decline", conceded Alain Weill, CEO of Altice France, invited on Tuesday to react on franceinfo to the conflict between his group and Free. "In full fall, while LCI, CNews and Franceinfo have muscled their grid, BFMTV will not resist six months", bet The Parisian.

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