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“There is reason to believe that European features will also be important parts of platform content strategies in years to come”

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Roderik Smits, Christopher Meir • Lecturers, Carlos III University of Madrid


The two lecturers break down their edited collection of essays titled European Cinema in the Streaming Era

Roderik Smits, Christopher Meir • Lecturers, Carlos III University of Madrid
Roderik Smits (left) and Christopher Meir

Cineuropa caught up with Christoph Meir and Roderik Smits, lecturers at Madrid’s Carlos III University. Smits and Meir edited a collection of essays titled European Cinema in the Streaming Era: Policy, Platforms and Production, which examines the impact of streaming on European cinema and how the continent’s film industry is responding to the subscription-VoD revolution. The book will be launched at Madrid’s Cine Doré Cinematheque on 25 June. You can find out more about it here.

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Cineuropa: Could you touch on the scope and the objectives of your study?
Roderik Smits:
The book addresses key issues that are characteristic of how European cinema is being shaped by streaming, including original productions, European co-productions, platform catalogues, online circulation and streaming policies. We describe the impacts of streaming platforms on European cinema, and analyse how the European film industry has responded to the activities of Netflix and other streamers. What roles have European policy-makers, platform operators and film producers played in this new era?

We bring together perspectives and case studies from a number of European countries, including Spain, Belgium, the UK, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Portugal and others. In addition, we explore a range of streaming platforms, both large and small, and examine various business models including TVoD, SVoD and AVoD.

How is the edited collection structured? What are the main perspectives, topics and contributions that readers may find interesting?
Christopher Meir:
The first part of the book focuses on policies and regulatory frameworks for streaming platforms. For example, it draws comparisons between European countries to demonstrate what sorts of investment obligations for streamers and which content quotas have been introduced. In the second part, the focus shifts to streaming platforms and the circulation of European cinema. It covers topics such as release strategies and windows, the availability and visibility of films on platforms, recommendation systems and the educational features of platforms. The third part highlights the production activities of the platforms in the form of “original” films and other kinds of investment in European film production. Several chapters develop case studies to provide insights into collaborations between European production companies and global streamers.

In the introductory chapter, you draft a timeline unpacking the main events involving European cinema and streaming platforms. Could you elaborate on it?
Even if ten years seems like a short period of time in some ways, this particular decade has actually been very eventful. We didn’t just wake up one morning and find that the platforms had become major players in the film industries; instead, it has been a gradual process. We wanted to chronicle that process in some detail so that readers could appreciate, for example, that Netflix making series like Dark and Suburra in 2017, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, were important parts of this progression.

One of the trends identified by the study is the convergence of film and TV. Where are we now?
This is very much an ongoing process. In 2023, Amazon Prime Video released Greek Salad [+see also:
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series profile
, a series sequel to Cédric Klapisch’s Pot Luck trilogy, while Netflix released Nicolas Winding Refn’s mini-series Copenhagen Cowboy [+see also:
series review
interview: Nicolas Winding Refn
series profile
. Meanwhile, this year, Netflix released One Day, a series remake of the eponymous film, and will soon be releasing a show based on the classic Italian movie The Leopard. So, we’re still seeing a lot of this kind of convergence, with a bias towards longer-form series. At the same time, however, both Netflix and Amazon are releasing an increasing number of European “original” films and licensing many others, so there is reason to believe that European features will also be important parts of platform content strategies in years to come.

You also discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on European cinema. What about its aftermath?
A new wave of global streamers – including Disney+ and HBO Max [now Max] – from some of the legacy Hollywood studios arrived in the European market during the pandemic. The pandemic also put further pressure on the relationship between cinema exhibitors and streamers. Release windows between theatrical and online windows, for instance, decreased to 45 days for a large number of Hollywood studio films in many European countries. Besides, the development of virtual cinema platforms during the pandemic created new opportunities.

Each of these developments continues to have an impact in one way or another. However, one might question whether these should be understood as an acceleration of processes that were already taking place before the pandemic, or as a turning point.

Later, you mention European diversity and the continued inequality between the European film industry and Hollywood. Are these two aspects interconnected? Should we expect some kind of change in the coming years?
These are indeed two fundamental features of the European film industry. There are several connections between them, including the hope from many in the sector that helping Europe to compete at the macro level with Hollywood will, in the long term, generate more prosperity for all nations in Europe; the proverbial “tide that will lift all boats”. But in the short term, one worries that decisions will have to be made about which of these goals should be prioritised. Ideally, you would do both, but striking this balance is always going to be difficult, if not impossible.

You write: “While Netflix and, to a lesser extent, other global platforms have had many salubrious impacts on European film culture, as numerous chapters in this book make clear, they also pose dangers to that same culture.” Could you tell us a bit more about this “salubrious impact” and these dangers?
European stakeholders have welcomed the substantial financial investments that have come from global streamers, which have meant that the European film industry has been able to increase production, while European films circulate more widely than perhaps they ever have. Audiences can also take advantage of the by now well-known comforts of VoD viewing, with films being accessible at any time and from anywhere. Moreover, SVoD services are still relatively low-cost, while “free” viewing through AVoD is developing rapidly as another business model. At the same time, European stakeholders also see dangers in the platforms’ ability to control processes of production, distribution and exhibition, and the power they exert over the European film industry.

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