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LOCARNO 2014 Distribution / Television / Europe

Europa Distribution workshop: it's always a struggle


- At the Europa Distribution workshop in Locarno independent distributors discussed strategies to increase the TV sales of art house films

Europa Distribution workshop: it's always a struggle
From left to right: Olivia Le Dain, Fernando Riera, Christine Eloy, Susan Wendt, Silke Wilfinger, Valérie Lardinois, Karen Byot and Wendy Mitchell

In many European countries the ongoing trend is that public broadcasters have less slots for art house movies in their programmes. For independent distributors television deals are essential in order to finance their MG's and P & A. At the Europa Distribution workshop, About the role of television in the career of independent films, in Locarno about 40 independent distributors discussed the situation. 

“It‘s always a struggle because it‘s easier to offer blockbuster movies than art house films“, states Valérie Lardinois, Head of Acquisitions at RTBF who buys all kinds of film for the public broadcaster. The Belgian broadcaster shows 380 movies per year on three different channels.

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The Arte programme illustrates that the French-German channel is dedicated to culture in different forms and formats. "We have five slots a week for feature films“, says Karen Byot, Deputy Manager of the Cinema Department. Among these are two classical slots on Monday. "On Wednesday we only show art house movies.“ About one third of all films in the Arte programme are French films.

Meanwhile in Germany slots are decreasing. Degeto, the acquisition organization of ARD, will not buy films, especially art house films, to the full extent. In addition, the regional German TV station SWR (Südwestfunk) stopped buying movies and takes into consideration to close even the last regular film slot while the BR (Bayerischer Rundfunk) also decreased the volume of film acquisitions for 2014. Even Oscar-winning films such as The Artist don‘t get picked up by the TV stations in Germany. “That also affects world sales. Distributors can't pay the MG's anymore“ stresses Silke Wilfinger who represents “The Independents“ as Head of Acquisitions and Sales at Koch Media. “We‘re trying to organise the distributors who are affected.“ 

“It‘s tough to get the broadcasters on board. Many Broadcasters want to have digital rights as well“, reports Susan Wendt, Head of Sales at TrustNordisk in Denmark. The new market situation weakens distributors. “VOD is not helping us either. VOD rights are bought by TV in a package“, outlines Fernando Riera, Director of film production and development at the Spanish distributor A Contracorriente Films. “Telcos are the ones who are having the benefit of piracy." Therefore, they should be obliged to create strong and affordable VOD services to rebuild legal VOD marketplaces.

Even though the situation in every European country is different, the problems are the same. In Spain it is already compulsory that half of the movies broadcasted on TV must be European films but, broadcasters air them at 2 or 3 o'clock at night. Another issue is over-production which is not only affecting distributors, but also exhibitors, broadcasters and the producers themselves. “The different interest groups are not really connected“, stresses Silke Wilfinger. 

After analyzing this situation, distributors want to take action and to actively develop approaches within their network in order to find potential solutions. “A pan-European strategy could be helpful“, sums up Fernando Riera.

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