The agreement between Amazon and Warner (HBO) turns all French TV upside down

After ending its exclusive contracts with OCS and Canal+, the Warner Bros. Discovery announced, to everyone’s surprise, to join forces with Prime Video in France. This contract, unique on a global scale, places Amazon in a dominant position in the French television sector.

Did Amazon kill the game? After having seized Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 (soccer), as well as on Roland Garros (tennis), the web giant announced on Thursday 12 January signing an exclusive contract with Warner Bros. Discoverythe content owner Warner Bros, Discovery, HBO, Eurosport, TCM, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network and Boomerang.

This extraordinary signature transforms Amazon into a giant of the French audiovisual landscape, to the detriment of historical groups like Canal+ or OCS, the big losers of this merger, the extent of which no one had measured.

The Amazon/Warner alliance is a French exclusivity

The exclusivity between Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery has something against nature. Elsewhere, that is to say in all the other countries of the world, the two groups are not really friends. For good reason, Warner has its own streaming service named HBO Maxa competitor to Prime Video.

In the United States, where HBO Max is well implemented, no one could imagine that a program like The Last of Us lands on Prime Video. It’s as if Disney decides to sell the last Star Wars to Netflix, and that the latter has the right to present it as a “Netflix Original”. In France, The Last of Us will be an “Amazon Exclusive”. France is, to our knowledge, the only country where The Last of Us will be broadcast on a competing streaming service to HBO Max and available worldwide. That’s why media like variety particularly follow the French market.

By recovering the rights The Last of Us, yet coveted by everyone (Canal+, OCS, etc.), Amazon is in a unique position. Its status is so strong in France that one of its competitors is taking the risk of strengthening it by selling it the rights to its new flagship series. A sale to Canal+, which has a more television status and historical ties to Warner Bros. Discovery, would have been much more logical.

As an indication, know that it is possible in the United States to subscribe to HBO Max in the form of an Amazon Channel. However, the content is not presented as exclusive to Amazon and remains integrated into a universe presented as that of “HBO Max”. A comparison with France is therefore not possible.

The Last of Us exclusively on Amazon, a French exception.  // Source: Amazon
The Last of Us exclusively on Amazon, a French exception. // Source: Amazon

Warner dropped OCS and Canal+ in 2 weeks

How did we get here ? To fully understand the nature of this contract, which concerns The Last of Us but also the other properties of the Warner Bros. group. Discovery, we must return to the situation of the rights of the American giant at the end of 2022:

Why Warner Bros. Didn’t Discovery renew its contract with OCS? Initially, the group planned to launch its HBO Max streaming service by the end of its contract with the Orange channels, but a change of direction upset his plans. Since OCS is not in a very good economic situation (Canal+ will buy it), signing an extension seemed unlikely.

For several months, the media have regularly speculated on the drop point of HBO content in France, but no information had leaked despite the Amazon rumor. What was whispered was the arrival of content like The Last of Us and Game Of Thrones on Prime Video, not the total exclusivity of the entire Warner Bros. catalog. Discovery on the Amazon platform. By offering a paid option at a price for the moment unknown (the Warner Pass, from March 2023), Amazon is putting a blow on the head of its competitors, starting with Canal+. The streaming service recovers a huge catalog and becomes the broadcaster of 12 television channels that are usually found on Canal +, which is strongly reminiscent what happened with football in 2021. Canal+ is Amazon’s new target. Bad luck, the American has an almost unlimited budget to hurt him.

All bands coming exclusively to Prime Video.  // Source: Warner Bros.  Discovery
All the channels coming exclusively to Prime Video. Yes, there are very big names. // Source: Warner Bros. Discovery

Is France a laboratory for Warner, before launching “MAX” in France?

According to variety, the contract between Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery is valid until the end of 2024, although the studio plans to launch its own streaming service in Europe the same year.

However, nothing says that the Warner Pass will disappear from Prime Video the day HBO Max, or its replacement, is launched in France. As in the United States with the Channels, Warner could perfectly market its streaming service on Amazon, without giving the e-commerce giant exclusivity over its programs. Paramount+ has the same approach and markets its catalog at Apple and Amazon, in addition to its own application.

HBO Max, when it launched.  Since then, the strategy has changed.  // Source: HBO
HBO Max, when it launched, had to compete with Netflix everywhere. Since then, the strategy has changed. // Source : HBO

In fact, what is happening in France could serve as an experiment for the Warner Bros. group. Discovery.

At a time when the proliferation of streaming services is beginning to show its limits and where HBO Max is set to die in the US (there is talk of a new service called “MAX”, less ambitious, which would bring together programs from all the group’s subsidiaries), this exclusive integration with Amazon could be an experiment for Warner, which could see in it a new way of monetize its services. The fact that the price of the Warner Pass is not communicated suggests that it is not fixed. Is an exclusive distribution model on global platforms (Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Apple, etc.) the most profitable way to sell programs abroad?

Given the diversity of HBO programs, there is no doubt that the Warner Pass should be a great success. Even more if it costs less than OCS, which we won’t know until March.

Source: Numerama editing

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