Beyond the Big Five: The ‘Mainstreamers’

This is the first piece in a month-long series that will explore a number of alternatives to the “Big Five” streaming services (Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Apple, Hulu/Disney+) that have licensed or are open to licensing Canadian content, in English and French, making them viable options in terms of expanding traditional partnerships. While some will prefer to buy from a producer’s library and others will fund or co-fund projects, all are viable options to showcase and spread CanCon across the world. 

The data contained in the series is provided by Wendy Lynn Bernfeld, a digital-sector consultant, frequent jury member, and founder of international content and licensing consultancy Rights Stuff.

Up first: the ‘Mainstreamers’ — a category consisting of SVoD platforms often created by telecoms, cable operators or TV operators to compete in local or multi-region markets.

> Read the other articles in the series

Contemplating traditional broadcasters and specialty stations is no longer the only way to fund mainstream Canadian content in this over-the-top (OTT) world. Canadian prodcos must expand their horizons and consider a slew of subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services outside of the traditional Netflix-Prime Video offerings. 

For clarity on the terms and abbreviations used throughout the article, consult our report ‘Making Sense of the Media Distribution Multiverse: Paths to Consumers, Key Concepts and Definitions

Ziggo Movies & Series (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Netherlands, Belgium, and UK (via Virgin);
  • Business model: Linear channel carriage, TVoD, tiered-bundle and standalone SVoD (including Home of HBO);
  • B2B model: Usually, revenue sharing for TVoD and AVoD; flat-license fee for SVoD; non-exclusive VoD, with some exclusivity exceptions.

VodafoneZiggo — a part of Liberty Global International (LGI, based in Denver, USA) — is comparable to Bell or Rogers (in the Netherlands, it is a merged telecom and cable operation) in that it carries linear packages mixed with on-demand options that are available on set-top boxes and mobile apps. Its “Movies & Series” and “XL” services boast features and series, in addition to shorts and web series. The service offers a slew of scripted fare across all genres, but tends to place less emphasis on non-theatrical docs and reality in favour of major and mini-major productions, as well as English-language and international European products. Ziggo and its related VoD services also carry foreign language programming, including French-language films and series. However there is no recent French-language funding, and there has been no overall funding for originals in 2019, nor so far in 2020 (at time of press) other than via their pay-TV networks in the related LGI group (Telenet Belgium, Virgin UK).

Orange S.A. / Orange Cinéma Séries (Paris, France)

> Visit the VoD Orange website

> Visit the Orange Cinéma Séries website

  • Countries served: In telecom overall, 27 countries including France, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Romania, Africa, and Morocco. In video-on-demand, the main regions are France, central Europe, Spain, Africa, and Morocco;
  • Business model: Linear, pay-TV, SVoD, TVoD, EST, hybrid packages;
  • B2B model: Flat fee for TV and SVoD; revenue share for TVoD; non-exclusive VoD, with some deal-specific exceptions.

The telecommunications corporation Orange S.A. operates one of the largest French SVoD providers in Europe and Africa. It is ahead of Amazon Prime in reach, and second only to Netflix. It purchases and funds content to populate its services, including major and mini-major productions, and local indies (including Canadian). It is interested in all mainstream genres, with less emphasis on non-theatrical docs, non-fiction and reality, although the priority is French programming across all genres. OCS first funds French content, then European projects in order to hit investment requirements, although international French-language content can be an exception. In 2019 OCS and Orange Studio committed to invest $US114 million in original series over the next five years. 

Viaplay (Sweden; London, UK; regional offices)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Baltics;
  • Business model: Linear channel, TVoD, EST, SVoD, free TV/AVoD, VR;  
  • B2B model: Flat fee for TV and SVoD; revenue share for TVoD; non-exclusive for VoD, with some deal-specific exceptions.

The satellite and pay TV company (co-owned by Nordic Entertainment Group in the Nordic regions and by Sony in Hungary and Viasat World internationally) is a leading service comprising many free TV, pay-TV, and VoD channels in the Nordic countries and that is loaded up with mainstream content including sports, TV, film and children’s programming. Consumers access it through a variety of options including OTT devices, apps, connected TVs, game consoles and more. Its main focus is mainstream series and feature films across all genres. However there is limited interest in docs and reality, which are more likely a fit for their free TV/AVoD platforms. The company invests heavily in originals via NENT (including at least 80 originals in 2020 at time of press), whether local commissions, co-pros, or projects at the gap-funding stage. First priority goes to local Nordic and Baltic content, then to the rest of Europe — although there is an appetite for English Canadian and acclaimed French-Canadian content.

BeTV/BeTV Go (Brussels, Belgium)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Belgium, Luxembourg;
  • Business model: Pay-TV, SVoD, TVoD and co-productions;
  • B2B model: Revenue sharing for TVoD; flat fee or revenue sharing for AVoD; flat fee for SVoD.

The premium service has recently expanded to compete with emerging streamers and now offers a hybrid of subscription options that allow consumers to access a mostly mainstream content lineup across all genres — including drama, comedy, kids/family, sci-fi, limited docs, and foreign language (with an emphasis on French-language programming). Although there is limited funding available for local originals, the service appears to be open to more French-language co-productions in the future after one of its key previous partners, Canal+ France, shut down its Canalplay service. 

Salto (Paris, France)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: France;
  • Business model: Its founders are in free TV (under public national broadcaster France Télévisions, TF1 and M6), but Salto is their new, combined SVoD service. More details are expected to trickle in as we move closer to its launch date.
  • B2B model: In beta-testing phase, to be confirmed upon launch.

After a lengthy start due to regulatory delays, Salto (the SVoD service under public national broadcaster France Télévisions and other aforementioned partners) is in the beta-testing phase (at time of press) with a projected launch in the fall of 2020. The service is expected to offer all genres including foreign language content, and the platform will sink a projected €250 million over three years into 15,000 hours of content. First dibs will go to French and EU fare, but French-Canadian programming could also find a home on the platform.

Stan (Sydney, Australia)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Australia;
  • Business model: SVoD, funding;
  • B2B model: Flat fee (exclusive and non-exclusive licenses) for SVoD; free TV license deals under Channel 9.

Channel 9’s SVoD service has made big strides since its 2015 launch, growing into the second-largest such service in Australia after Netflix. Stan carries mainstream international mini-major content (Starz, Lionsgate), and offers a lineup of series and features across all genres. It places less emphasis on documentaries and non-fiction in favour of mainstream English-language programming, with limited lifestyle and reality content. The platform generally buys separately for its own service and has a track record of funding originals (‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,’ ‘Wolf Creek’), and it may be in the market for more kids and family programming following Disney’s decision to pull its content from the platform in 2019, in order to launch Disney+.

Proximus Movies and Series/Proximus Pickx (Brussels, Belgium)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Belgium (both French and Flemish Belgium);
  • Business model: Linear channel carriage, SVoD, TVoD, co-production, funding;
  • B2B model: TVoD revenue sharing; (low) flat fee for SVoD; non-exclusive library and holdback against free TV; some exclusives particularly against other Belgian TV networks.

Proximus continues to explore SVoD, TVoD and OTT options through set-top box hosting (Netflix, Disney+), and targeted packages. Its mainstream content typically includes drama, comedy, kids/family and the occasional adult animation, horror or sci-fi, although it may be open to more arthouse style films and co-productions in the future. Foreign-language content is always a plus, as the service requires Dutch, Flemish and French-language versions (although English-language content can be taken, at a lower price). 

Showmax (Johannesburg, South Africa)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: South Africa and the rest of the African continent;
  • Business model: MNET and Multichoice channels have linear pay-TV carriage deals (under Naspers group in Africa), premium pay-TV (MNET/ Multichoice) and some TVoD. Showmax is their SVOD  and TVoD;
  • B2B model: flat-fee for pay TV and SVoD; revenue sharing for TVoD.

This SVoD competitor to Netflix lives under the Naspers Group and carries a variety of mainstream features, series, shorts and (some) web-series that span drama, comedy, and kids/family programming. It also features some theatrical horror and docs, but has limited space for non-local reality TV and lifestyle. The service occasionally funds originals, is open to co-productions, and already carries some Canadian content (‘Burden of Truth’). The main focus remains on English-language programming, although some French-language films may be the exception that confirm the rule.

Amber Dowling
Amber Dowling is a Toronto-based freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in various newspapers, magazines and websites across Canada and the United States. A previous president of the Television Critics Association and former editor-in-chief of TV Guide Canada, she’s covered all aspects of the platinum age of television and the emerging industry for publications including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire, Playback, The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Aside from watching too much boob tube she’s a world traveller and mom with a serious penchant for bold reds and stinky cheese.
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