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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2016 Industry

Audiences in Motion: The product and the user


- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2016: For the second year in a row, the Basque gathering has held the European Film Forum conference on how to improve European film’s situation in the digital era

Audiences in Motion: The product and the user
l-r: Movistar+'s Felipe Pontón, MUBI's Tania Sutherland, ComScore Movies’ Arturo Guillén and moderator Elena Neira during the EFF conference (© SSIFF)

After an introduction by festival director José Luis Rebordinos, the 64th San Sebastián International Film Festival held a panel entitled Audiences in Motion: Listening to the User on 18 September, as part of the Creative Europe’s European Film Forum.

Deputy head of unit for the audiovisual industry in the European Commission Martin Dawson opened the conference, laying out some interesting figures for the European film industry. “Less than 50% of the films released in European theatres go to VoD – we have to raise this figure,” he stated, before pointing out that “online access is providing much more audience data than before, making it more possible for everyone to understand it”.

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Stefan Schmitz, head of Spanish production and distribution company Avalon, addressed the topic from the point of view of older media. “VoD income is still very far from replacing what was lost in the DVD market and other windows,” he stated, “although there are companies that are trying to overcome that problem, not only by investing in film distribution, including funding films at the production phase, such as Netflix.” Yet the difficulty of having the right visibility amidst the huge VoD catalogues was highlighted as one of the main issues to solve: “We need big, recognisable agents for cross-border visibility; we need 'brands' to appeal to the public. Will all of the distributors simply be marketing agencies for films on VoD platforms in ten years from now?”

Elena Neira, expert and consultant for several media companies, introduced the two panels. The first one, on audience participation, welcomed Norwegian producer, script doctor, writer and journalist Marianne Furevold, who tackled the relationship between TV distribution and social media by presenting the TV series Shame, whose stories are posted online at the same time as the TV series is broadcast, and whose characters have active profiles on social networks – engaging audiences in the series like no other product has been able to do before. Distributor Camille Lopato talked about current changes taking place in film exhibition, through audience engagement and prototyping, introducing the pickupVRcinema project, the first virtual-reality cinema in France, which is enjoying a huge buzz on the social networks. Fernando López Puig, responsible for feature films, animated films, documentaries and TV movies at Spain’s RTVE, introduced his approach to trying to recapture the youngest audiences, through his involvement in audiovisual projects that have strong multimedia features, such as Spain in a Day and a VR project based on the series El ministerio del tiempo, the only Spanish TV series that has managed to create a young, active and engaged fan base.

The second panel, on distribution and understanding European audiences, featured the input of Felipe Pontón, director of selection of fiction TV projects at Movistar+; he talked about how to adapt the need to develop new ways of measuring ratings in a context of shifting from the traditional concept of audience to the new, ever-changing one – media notoriety, consumer analysis and international sales are all important ingredients in this. ComScore Movies’ vice-president for Europe, Middle East, Africa and India, Arturo Guillén, addressed the necessary use of big data and an understanding of the market to achieve a better connection with the new audiences, which have changed from passive to active, and from decision receivers to decision makers. He was joined by Tania Sutherland, global marketing director for curated SVoD platform MUBI, to discuss how all of this affects content distribution to global audiences, and how tailored marketing strategies can help to make this become a success.

However, head of international affairs at the Norwegian Film Institute Dag Asbjornsen, formerly a policy officer at the European Commission's Directorate-General Connect, brought the conference to a close by stating, “Measuring data is key, but it never replaces creativity.”

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