Chronic. The stake is latent but it gives a cold sweat to the television channels. Their fate, and that of the culture, depends in part on the good old remote control, the numbers and the names that appear on it. What is looming is the erasure of terrestrial channels for the benefit of globalized platforms such as YouTube, Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Google Play… Nothing less.

The subject is described by Caroline Sallé in Le Figaro of September 5, under the title: “How the French channels lose the crucial battle of the remote control”. Exaggerated? No, answer officials we interviewed. We understand them. A novel placed majestically in the window of a bookstore attracts the reader more than if it is at the back of a shelf. The same goes for a TV program. Moreover, in the mid-1980s, when the first channel was privatized, rather than 2 or 3, the choice was contested, among other things because the symbolic number and the fact of being displayed at the top on the remote control gave it an advantage. So if tomorrow there are no more numbers …

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The scenario is plausible. Koreans Samsung and LG, followed by Chinese TCL and Japanese Sony, which dominate the television market, have the Internet as a holy grail. Whether television is turning into a platform with multiple content or into a Google-style search engine is not new, but the movement is accelerating. 80% of the 4.5 million workstations sold each year in France provide access to endless programs.

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More to some than others. The trend for remote controls is the disappearance of numbers assigned to national channels in favor of buttons engraved with the names of GAFA. Samsung already markets a zapette displaying a single number, giving access to the TNT channels of the country concerned, while three buttons are offered to platforms, including Netflix, which can be accessed directly.

GAFA money

These buttons offer a huge advantage – just like being displayed first when you turn on the set – and they pay a heavy price. The two camps meet there: money for the manufacturers of screens, notoriety for the platforms. Amazon is having it both ways by preparing to launch its own televisions; its platform will be there in majesty of course. National channels, they cannot compete and risk anonymization.

Can a country require a Korean manufacturer to keep a keyboard on the remote? Not easy. Especially since the climate does not lend itself to it. Conventional chains have benefited from confinement like never before – no time to complain. The telephone operators are focused on the box war – a French passion, while waiting for these boxes to fall into disuse.

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