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France Telecom Orange to boost content in rights deal with film studios UPDATE

Date: 4/7/2008 1:38:14 PM

PARIS (Thomson Financial) Internet and mobile operator Orange is to expand its content offer through licence agreements signed with film studios and payTV channel HBO, Didier Lombard, CEO of parent company France Telecom (nyse: FTE news people ), told Les Echos.

With this investment, Orange is going to be able to offer its subscribers a catalogue of over a thousand films per year and 500 hours of exclusive series, he said.

In a separate press release, Orange said it will be marketing the content as a premium TV service called Orange cinema series. The offer will include exclusive access to new films, series and catalogues from Warner Bros. International Television and HBO, exclusive access to all the new movies from Fidelite Films, and a large selection of films from the Gaumont catalogue.

The announcement follows Oranges recent acquisition of rights to broadcast certain live football matches from Frances first division. Lombard told Les Echos the company will detail its football offer in May.

Regarding competition with Vivendi SA., Lombard said his group is faced with a major monopoly, given that Vivendi controls payTV operator Canal Plus and its mobile phone unit SFR is about to acquire internet operator Neuf Cegetel.

We just want to have unrestricted access to the channels broadcast by Canal Plus, he said.

Asked about the possibility of a fourth mobilephone operating licence in France, Lombard said such as move is not rational, arguing that the French market already has competitive pricing and a large number of virtual operators.

While the French government appeared a few months ago to be trying to revive plans to award a fourth licence, after a failed bid last year from Iliads Free, speculation in recent days has claimed the authorities are now looking to drop the issue.

Concerning the proposals of EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding, which could force historic operators to separate their infrastructure and services, Lombard argued that in the future, networks and services will need to be closely linked.

Regarding Apple Inc. (nasdaq: AAPL news people )s iPhone, which Orange is exclusively selling in France, Lombard said sales have now reached 100,000 units, after an initial surge of 700,000 in December.

In terms of the economic environment, the CEO noted that communication activities are resistant to cycles, adding that the high proportion of customers with mobile phone contracts also gives France Telecom higher visibility.

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