There are questions over the future of the French online video service Salto. Two years after its launch as a joint venture between France Télévisions, TF1, and M6, the platform is reported to have reached 800,000 paying subscribers. TF1 and M6 had planned to merge and buy out the stake of the public broadcaster. With their merger falling through due to competition concerns, the future of Salto is up in the air.
Salto was conceived as a bold joint venture between the public broadcaster France Télévisions and the two largest private broadcasters, TF1 and M6, respectively controlled by the Bouygues and Bertelsmann groups.
First proposed in mid-2018, the name Salto, a backward somersault, is a reference to start-over or catchup services.
Delayed by regulatory clearance and the coronavirus pandemic, Salto finally launched in October 2020. The offer included 20 channels of live programming from the three groups, together with their catch-up services and a catalogue of on-demand titles, with subscriptions starting at €6.99 a month.
In May 2021, TF1 and M6 announced that they were proposing to merge, in the face of increased competition from international platforms. This was abandoned in September 2022. They said that structural remedies required by the French competition authority meant that the proposed merger no longer had any strategic rationale.
The competition authority said that the transaction could have created major competitive risks, particularly in the television advertising and television service distribution markets, giving the combined entity control of three quarters of the television advertising in the country.
In the event of their merger, TF1 and M6 had agreed to buy out the one third stake of France Télévisions in Salto for €45 million, reflecting the amount it had committed to contribute to the operation of the platform.
With the merger of TF1 and M6 now off the table, the future of Salto looks less certain, although they previously announced that it would remain under the joint control of its three shareholders throughout 2022 to facilitate the ongoing development of the platform.
According to media reports, Salto has 800,000 paying subscribers. Back in January, Delphine Ernotte, the president of France Télévisions was reported as saying that Salto had “around 700,000 subscribers,” although it was unclear how many of them were on the one-month free trial.