“Netflix is coming”
by Fabien Lemercier
- The imminent arrival of the American heavyweight in France is analysed by Rodophe Belmer (Canal+), Florence Gastaud (ARP) and Juliette Prissard-Eltejaye (SPI)
An extraordinary meeting at the Ministry of Culture, intense strategic thinking at the CNC, concerns expressed by French SVoD (subscription video on demand) operators, questioning the consequences for Canal+ (the main financier for French cinema), unbridled media coverage of the smallest rumours… The publicly announced arrival of Netflix in France has been making waves for several months. Now set for next autumn, the touchdown of the American heavyweight in the French cinema landscape will in theory be achieved via a headquarters in the Netherlands, which will allow it to avoid the French legal requirements for SVoD platforms (including investing 15% of turnover in European production). Nevertheless, it would seem that Netflix will be respecting the distribution windows currently in force in France, which only allow films to be marketed on SVoD 36 months after their theatrical release. The rumours that are currently circulating also allude to the ongoing negotiations with French holders of film catalogues and Netflix’s planned production of a French series. Cineuropa asked three French professionals to give their opinions.
Rodolphe Belmer (managing director of Canal+): “The arrival of the OTT (editor’s note: ‘over-the-top content’) players could be considered as worrying, but not that of Netflix in and of itself. The Netflix model is very different to that of Canal+, as the core of what they offer is broadcasting older programmes. In the UK, 92% of what is available on Netflix dates from before 2011. Their model is to offer, fairly cheaply, a huge number of old programmes, as well as a few new series and their search engine. On the other hand, Canal+ has ultra-fresh content on all fronts. There will probably be some indirect competition with a new benchmark price, and that will undoubtedly be a little bit more complicated, but no more than it is already with BeIN Sports, for example; but there won’t be any head-on competition. By contrast, there will be the long-term problem of these international players that turn borders to their advantage, not heeding obligations and not paying taxes, which is a much bigger problem than Netflix.”
Florence Gastaud (general delegate of the ARP – Civil Society of Writers-Directors-Producers): “On the one hand, there is some concern about the fact that we don’t know to what extent Netflix will be able to shake up the traditional funding and exhibition systems for French cinema. But if we’re being optimistic about it, it will force us to do what we weren’t able to do before: revamp our system. Since the announcement of Netflix’s arrival, for example, Canal+ has refocused on OTT services with much more gumption, as well as on international development and boosting VoD, etc. We can now no longer pretend that it doesn’t exist. We have to shake things up and perhaps overhaul the distribution windows with some kind of tool that would favour the virtuous players. Furthermore, as we’ll never have the clout that an American service has, the only area where French and European SVoD services will be able to compete with Netflix will be on content. Netflix’s vast catalogue is not that varied and has films that are not overly new. After six months, the French public, who are used to more variety, will probably get bored.”
Juliette Prissard-Eltejaye (general delegate of the SPI – Union of Independent Producers): “The purchasing of the catalogues by Netflix is an opportunity. For audiovisual production, the rates applied seem decent, and there is the potential opportunity for production of new titles, but they will most likely be expensive and mainstream programmes, so there won’t be any funding for diversity. In terms of cinema, the rates proposed for the catalogues seem to be very different between groups and independents. But the real problem would be to give Netflix pride of place in the distribution windows, when they don’t even fund the system. For example, the possibility of bringing SVoD forward to 24 months after the theatrical release would place it on a par with the free-to-access TV channels that co-produce various works. Therefore, we need a genuine political will to plan well-balanced changes, taking into account the total amount of investment in French production.”
(Translated from French)