Netflix: chronicle of a touchdown in France
by Fabien Lemercier
- Cineuropa presents an initial analysis of the arrival of the US SVoD giant in a seething marketplace overshadowed by the unavoidable threat of piracy
Following a launch with a countdown that was hugely exaggerated by the media – who magnified it to such an extent that it could have been comparable to man’s first steps on the moon – the Netflix mothership touched down in France yesterday, and reality has once again regained control over fantasy. Scrutinised in minute detail by the sector’s analysts, the bulging catalogue of the French version of the American giant’s SVoD platform has turned out to be somewhat disappointing in terms of cinematic quality and how fresh the titles are (even taking into account the obligation currently in force in France to only circulate films on SVoD 36 months after their theatrical release). This is especially pertinent in a country like France, where SVoD consumers have, up to now, stood out from the crowd owing to their fairly high standards and levels of openness to a whole range of film industries (particularly European ones). But that will probably not stop Netflix from generating a certain amount of excitement around its first steps into the French market, even though, for the time being, it does not have access to broadcasting services via ADSL and fibre-optic boxes, with heated business negotiations already under way with the French telecoms operators (who are demanding a “fair” remuneration for Netflix’s very greedy consumption of bandwidth).
One of the main consequences of Netflix’s arrival is the awakening of the major French players in an SVoD sector that has, for a long time, been hampered by the elaborate pre-financing structure of French cinema, particularly in the case of pay-TV channel Canal+, which was keeping a very careful watch over its window of exclusive television rights (starting from ten months after the theatrical release) and was not planning to use its full potential when it came to its SVoD offering. Having now shifted up a gear, CanalPlay, which has an offering of 10,000 programmes (including 2,000 films and 3,800 hours of series – as against Netflix’s 2,950 hours) and is increasing its variety of broadcasting formats, has announced that it has had 200,000 new subscriptions over the last six months, giving a total of 520,000. And the (many) other French SVoD platforms (such as FilmoTV) are also seething with excitement, without forgetting the newcomers to the market, such as the operator Numéricable, which yesterday launched LaBox Séries, a product that comes with free SVoD for its subscribers.
The media and economic frenzy surrounding Netflix and SVoD has also placed the issue of piracy in the spotlight once again, in a context in which illegal streaming has unfortunately become the norm for the younger generations. The French authorities seem to want to regain control of the situation, judging by the words of Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who yesterday declared: “We have undoubtedly underestimated the impact of mass piracy. And yet it is a genuine source of impoverishment for the entirety of the creative sector.” It remains to be seen whether these declarations of intent will be followed up with prompt and efficient actions...
(Translated from French)