As he sat in his office in central Paris, Christian Bombrun, an executive at Orange, the French cellphone and cable operator, got an unexpected call. It was Netflix, the American streaming giant, proposing a deal.
Netflix was looking to offer its stable of movies and television programming to the 10 million Orange customers across France. What followed were six months of often tense negotiations, as both companies wrestled over the details.
“There were some difficult discussions,” said Mr. Bombrun, director of entertainment and digital services for Orange in France. At certain points, both sides thought the talks would fail. But in the end, he said, “we got a deal done.”
Such negotiations have become increasingly commonplace for Netflix as its global ambitions have taken the content streaming service far from its California roots into markets across Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Analysts say many operators, even those that have signed partnership deals, still fret that Netflix — alongside other American tech giants like Google and Facebook — will benefit more from these relationships than they will. Avid television watchers, for instance, have invested emotional capital into popular Netflix shows like “House of Cards” or “Narcos,” and often view their cable provider as a mere conduit to watching such digital content.
“Netflix’s exclusive shows are dominating people’s water cooler moments,” said Tony Gunnarsson, a senior analyst at Ovum, a technology research firm, in London. “Consumers are already watching Netflix, so it’s better for operators to add Netflix to their services or people will go elsewhere.”
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