Canal Plus’ French subscriber base dips below 8m

Manchester United's Paul Pogba (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Canal Plus’s overall individual subscriber base in France dropped from 8.1 million to 7.9 million in the 12 months through to the end of September, the pay-television broadcaster’s parent company Vivendi has said.

In a trading update, Vivendi said that Canal Plus group revenues had reached €3.8bn ($4.24bn) in the first nine months of the year – a 0.5-per-cent fall in comparison with the corresponding period last year.

Canal Plus group sales in the third quarter alone totalled €1.29bn – a year-on-year drop of 0.9 per cent on a constant currency basis. Vivendi said that the Canal+ channel’s individual subscriber base continued to grow with a net gain of 99,000 subscribers year-on-year.

However, revenues from international operations increased by 6.1 per cent thanks to the addition of 2.9 million subscribers, partly thanks to the takeover, confirmed last month, of pay-television operator M7.

Canal Plus’ group subscriber base reached nearly 19 million, compared to 16.3 million at the end of September 2018 and thanks in part to the inclusion of customers in the countries where M7 is present. The group now reaches 40 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Vivendi also confirmed that Canal Plus Group is “pursuing its efforts to transform its operations in France”, including a proposal, put forward in July, that could lead to 492 employees taking voluntary redundancy – about 20 per cent of the company’s domestic workforce.

Discounting exchange rate fluctuations, Vivendi’s overall revenues in the first nine months of the year improved by 6.9 per cent to €11.32bn, largely thanks to the growth of the conglomerate’s Universal Media Group unit.

Canal Plus, which was the long-term dominant force in pay-television sports broadcasting in France, has endured a bruising battle for supremacy in recent years due to the emergence of rival beIN Sports, while RMC Sport and Mediapro provide further competition in the premium market.

Earlier this month, Canal Plus launched a sharp temporary fee reduction for new subscribers to its digital services in an effort to arrest a decline in subscribers that is reported to be 167,000 so far this year. The broadcaster launched a similar offer at the start of the summer.

In May, the broadcaster recouped some of its investment in English Premier League coverage by sealing a deal with RMC Sport to share live coverage between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons.

Then earlier this week, L’Équipe reported that Canal Plus is close to finalising the sale of rights to the 2020 Olympics to Discovery-owned broadcaster Eurosport, which already has rights to the Games across the rest of Europe, with the exception of Russia. The newspaper said that Canal Plus is keen to avoid costs in relation to production and creating extra channels for coverage of Tokyo 2020.