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article imageDespite Netflix invasion, French network Canal Plus thrives at 30

By Lidya Patal     Nov 11, 2014 in Entertainment
This November, France’s premier pay-TV network Canal Plus is celebrating 30 years since its initial launch in 1984. And it has reason to cheer louder than ever before.
While the channel and accompanying website has offered special programming through the first two weeks of November to commemorate the event, the channel’s sustained growth and continued success are the best 30th birthday presents it could possibly ask for.
Within France, Canal Plus has steadily increased its offerings and now boasts six channels, an on-demand feature, Canal Play, and more than 6 million subscribers, further securing its foothold atop the French television sector.
The network also recently expanded within Africa, where it has built a subscriber base of 1.4 million across 23 countries since first arriving on the continent two decades ago. In late October, Canal Plus officially launched A+, a pan-African entertainment channel that will feature a mix of Western and regional programming. American productions like Everybody Hates Chris, starring Chris Rock, will air alongside locally produced shows that Canal plans to incubate and support, as well as distribute.
Canal Plus, along with its sister production house, Studio Canal, is also making global waves for its excellent original productions. Most notably is Les Revenants (English: The Returned), which aired in the United States on Sundance Channel and became a staple of many American critics’ top 10 lists in 2013. The second season is currently in production and will air in the U.S. once it is distributed in France. On the strength of that show, Canal Plus has moved to produce more original programming, helping it further diversify and pivot away from its traditional role of a secondary distributor of films and television.
Canal Plus has always had a strong relationship with the U.S. and American programming, but usually it has gone in just one direction, with Canal Plus snagging European rights to American programming and re-broadcasting them to its audience. Now, with Les Revenants and other shows like Marseille and Spotless, original French programming is making its way across the Atlantic in reverse.
Perhaps most importantly, Canal Plus is doing all of this in a time of great transition in the French entertainment marketplace. In mid-September, Netflix launched in France (and five other central European nations) and immediately ran afoul of France’s draconian distribution rules. The U.S. streaming giant, with its massive archive of programming and original shows of its own, threatens Canal Plus’s stranglehold on the French entertainment platform sector. But from the looks of things, Canal Plus is not going down without a fight.
Thirty years from its founding, Canal Plus appears stronger than ever, with a solid foundation both within France and abroad, especially in the emerging entertainment market of Africa. For the first time, its original programming is being lapped up by American audiences instead of the other way around. Best of all, it appears Canal Plus sees both expansion abroad and original programming as positives, and are investing heavily in both. So forget the commemorative programming bannering the channel and website -- the real gift for Canal Plus is continued success.
More about Canal plus, Netflix, A, The Returned, les revenants
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