Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
Netflix attends a round table on French film negotiations
CANNES 2022: The debate organised by the CNC highlighted the desire of industry professionals to continue negotiations so as to adapt to the growing change in the filmmaking business
Every year, the CNC hosts a huge debate at the Cannes Film Festival where TV networks and film professionals come face-to-face with one another. Platform bosses had previously been absent from these meetings, but on Saturday 21 May this year, a representative from Netflix took part in the round table, and this because, in February, a number of agreements were signed pertaining to the funding of independent French film creation, and a new media chronology developed. So why the debate if all is running smoothly? It’s because this new framework has been designed to accommodate change, and regulatory change seems to be advancing far more slowly than the economic changes affecting the French audiovisual landscape, namely the upcoming merger between TF1 and M6, the launch of the Salto platform by France Télévisions, the end of TV licences, and the heightened competition brought about by American platforms on French soil.
In this sense, the negotiations are far from over: as the only streamer to have signed an agreement with film professionals and approved the new media chronology, Netflix France now has a few demands of its own. Its investment of 200 million Euros in independent French production - of which 40 million will go to film - and its contribution to the CNC’s budget via tax don’t come for free. Netflix France’s Director of Legal Affairs Damien Bernet outlined a few of these costs: "Firstly, our producers need access to the automatic audiovisual support fund which was promised to us for the spring. As for series, the cap on audiovisual tax credit in France makes the country far less attractive financially-speaking for our big budget series than other European systems." Moreover, in terms of funding obligations, Netflix makes larger contributions to French production than Amazon: indeed, Amazon Prime Video’s turnover - which the streamer uses to calculate its obligations - is incredibly vague. Finally, in specific film terms, a movie co-produced by Netflix is broadcast 15 months after its cinema release, a window which the platform would like to reduce to 12 months (for the record, Canal+ enjoys a window of 6 months). "France is the only country in the world where Netflix has to wait such a long time to broadcast a film, and this delay encourages piracy."
According to Wild Bunch producer Florence Gastaud: "We talk about obligations, but it’s not the right word: for platforms, film is a vector which allows them to widen their subscriber pools. I believe in the complementarity of screens: movie theatres are suffering as a result of this, right now, but it’s only temporary." She cited the example of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog [+see also:
film profile] which achieved better Netflix audience results in countries where it also enjoyed a cinema release, compared to its poorer outcome in France where it wasn’t released in movie theatres. "My main concern is actually the editorialisation of film”, she insisted, “a matter which platforms, networks and movie theatres should all be focusing on."
As for media chronology windows, those on the panel agreed on the need for further negotiation: "The initial principle of media chronology in France was "the more we invest in a work, the faster we can broadcast it". Today, long-standing networks are investing a lot but broadcasting very late", complained Christophe Tardieu, backed by the General Secretary of the M6 Group Karine Blouet: "We broadcast a co-produced French film 22 months after its release in cinemas; the security of our window is under threat and the profitability of our investments in French film is deteriorating."
Florence Gastaud experienced the initial negotiations first hand, ten years ago, when she was Director General of the ARP (Association of Authors, Directors and Producers): "They took place at a time when the rarity of films was what made them valuable. Now, we’re living in an age of immediacy: to ensure the rarity of a mass-appeal movie is to ensure its piracy; in the case of arthouse films, it ensures their oblivion. We devised media chronology windows in order to protect our broadcasters and financiers, but we forgot what was most important: that people see the film."
As summarised by Pascal Rogard who was moderating the debate: "Everything would be fine if film depended solely on regulation. But it also depends on the public, who haven’t found their way back to movie theatres."
(Translated from French)
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