French subscription video on-demand service Salto is likely to close, little over two years after launching, affecting roughly 850.000 subscribers. Founded by rival broadcasters TF1, M6 and France Télévisions, Salto launched in France in October 2020 with ambitions of challenging established US streaming giants, while promoting French and European content.
Like most national broadcasters in Europe, each player involved in Salto is active only in its own market, and lacks the scale or resources to compete head-on with the global giants. However, the joint venture, dogged by political and regulatory challenges, has struggled to live up to expectation, capturing only 3% of the French streaming market, according to Ampere Analysis’ latest report. That is instead dominated by US streaming services (86% of market share in Q4 2022), of which Netflix, with over 10 million subscribers, is the market leader.
“With the launch of Paramount+ in December 2022, and the anticipated HBO Max/Discovery+ merged service expected to launch in 2024, the market in France, as elsewhere, is set to be even more challenging for local SVOD platforms trying to compete,” commented Sam Young, Analyst at Ampere Analysis and the author of the report.
Just seven months after launch, negotiations began to merge the activities of M6 and TF1, resulting in France Télévisions agreeing to sell its stake in Salto should the merger go ahead. The French Competition Authority, however, did not approve the merger, and M6 and TF1 announced plans to sell their stakes in Salto instead in September 2022; months of uncertainty ensued. During its two months on the market, Salto has only attracted one serious bid, from Spanish company Agile Content. France Télévisions has again announced its intention to pull out of the service, and questions are also being asked about Salto’s debts, which reportedly stand at around €85 million.
Salto’s backers, meanwhile, have arguably undermined its appeal by continuing to focus on their own premium services: since launching Salto, TF1 and M6 have also launched subscription versions of their existing AVOD services - MYTF1 Max in November 2021 and 6Play max in October 2022 - further increasing the competition for Salto.
In December 2022, Salto boasted the third largest SVOD catalogue in the French streaming market, and the highest number of titles (films and TV shows) produced locally, more than double local competitor OCS. The service may, however, be hindered by French consumers' lack of appetite for local content. Ampere Analysis’ Q3 2022 consumer survey indicates only 60% of French Internet users regularly watch local TV shows, compared to 75% for US TV shows. Moreover, those who do like watching local content are more likely to do so on linear channels, which still account for half of average daily viewing time in France.