A year after its launch, Salto is modestly making a place for itself

Posted on Oct 14, 2021, 7:12 PMUpdated Oct 14, 2021, 7:18 PM

Salto is about to blow out his first candle. A mixed first anniversary: ​​on the one hand, the service has managed to find a place in a very competitive landscape dominated by the Americans, which was not won in advance. But on the other hand, his breakthrough is ultimately quite timid.

According to our information, the France Televisions platform, TF1 and M6, would have reached between 350,000 and 400,000 paying subscribers during the summer. In addition, according to estimates by NPA Conseil, on the basis of a declarative survey (not distinguishing paying subscribers from those who benefit from a free month or from a sharing of accounts), the service would have a rate penetration of 2.4% at the end of September, or just over 700,000 people.

It is certainly better than the 1.4% in March 2021 or 0.7% last December, but it remains well below the penetration rates of Netflix (38%), Amazon Prime Video (25%) or Disney + (16%). Salto, on the other hand, does not communicate any figures.

Salto would therefore do less well than Netflix in its time: the American giant, which had landed in 2014 in France, had reached 750,000 subscribers in less than a year, according to estimates at the time. And, even though the use of video on demand by subscription was much less widespread. “They do not have the same barriers as those imposed (limitations on purchases coupled with rights, limitation of promotion, etc.) at Salto by the Competition Authority”, qualifies a professional, however.

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In short, a good start, but could do better. Nicolas de Tavernost, the chairman of the board of M6, also stressed that Salto was “rather a success”, adding that it was “complicated”, given the “competition” between the different stakeholders, during Media en Seine (an event organized by Les Echos and France Info). Everything is in the “rather” …

Little present on the boxes

If the French service is struggling to impose itself more, it is undoubtedly because it is not very present on the boxes of the French, who reign supreme in the consumption of television. The platform has signed a distribution agreement with Bouygues, but is still in discussions with other operators, including the leader, Orange. Among the brakes, the fact that Salto also distributes unencrypted channels (in addition to exclusives) … as also do the telecom operators.

And all the more so as Salto is struggling to emerge on connected televisions. The interactive TNT experiment carried out in recent months has not been completely conclusive, its programs not being playable on most televisions.

On the OCS file

To better take off, Salto would have looked at the file of a potential acquisition of OCS – which is studying several solutions to find financial balance – a few months ago. “But it did not go any further, given the end of the HBO contract, a priori in 2023. It would have been interesting for the subscriber base, but still it would have been necessary to convert it into Salto subscribers…” , says a professional.

Questions about the TF1-M6 post-merger future

On the content side, Salto, which aims to offer “the best of French creation”, has made some nice moves in recent months: broadcast of the special episode of “Friends” (with the former actors) at the same time as United States ; the “Germinal” series at the beginning of September, his first major co-production or more recently the collection of 24 “James Bonds”, which generated peaks in consumption.

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Its parent companies seem confident about the future of Salto. “We believe in it,” said Gilles Pélisson, CEO of TF1 to “Médias en Seine”, adding that “the model should certainly be reinvented”.

But, many questions arise as TF1 and M6 seek to merge. This could allow more resources to be allocated to the platform and to streaming in general. But what place would TF1 and M6 give to Salto in their future together? Would it not be in their interest to develop Salto, to bring it closer to their existing digital platforms (mostly free)? Complicated, at this stage to know more knowing that Salto has been notified to the Competition Authority as a paid service with three shareholders …

Above all, France Télévisions, which was still at the initiative of the project, will in fact find itself marginalized in the face of a shareholder who automatically holds 66%. Even if the public group has veto rights for certain strategic decisions, does it have an interest in being in the minority? And above all, do the two private groups have an interest in having France Télévisions around the table? “I imagine two possible scenarios: either other media enter, or France Télévisions leaves”, says a good connoisseur.

The three parent companies are due to discuss the evolution of the shareholding soon. To be continued then.

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