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Industry / Market - France

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

A new media chronology in France

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The revision of film exploitation windows sees Canal+ move to six months after theatrical release, streamers to 15 or 17 months and free-to-air TV channels to 22 months

A new media chronology in France
(© EP/European Parliament)

The delivery was not easy, as the interests of some were not necessarily those of others, but the destiny of all was inextricably linked (see article) through a sophisticated model of cinema (pre-)financing. But after long negotiations, the pressure of the deadline allowed the signing of a new media chronology (the regulatory organisation of the availability of films on the various distribution media) in France for the next three years.

The result, far from being revolutionary, nevertheless ratifies a clear evolution for SvoD streamers, previously limited to three years after theatrical release, and who see their window advance to 15 months after in case of agreement with the representative organisations of French cinema (which is only the case of Netflix for the moment, neither Amazon nor Disney having signed the new chronology) or to 17 months without agreement. A development that completes the integration (read the news) of audiovisual media services (SMAD) initiated by the European directive designed to regulate the activity of SvoD platforms and make them participate in the financing of creation.

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French media chronology nevertheless remains marked by the fundamental place dedicated to the cinema, which retains four months of exclusivity (with the possibility of a derogation of three months for films that have not accumulated more than 100,000 admissions by the end of their fourth week of exhibition) before the possibility of release on physical video and VOD begins.

The second pillar of the French system, Canal+, has seen its pre-eminence reinforced, since its window moves forward to six months after theatres (i.e. a gain of two months compared to the previous situation) and that its agreement signed last December with French cinema (see article) now grants it nine months of exclusivity. It should be noted that without a specific agreement, the first window for pay-TV starts nine months after theatres. However, it is also worth mentioning the possibility offered to streamers to increase their exclusivity to six months after theatrical release (i.e. at the level of Canal+), but under such specific conditions (respecting the Smad decree with a contribution of at least 30% of the turnover in the audiovisual and cinema sectors, of which at least 30% is for the cinema, and signing an agreement with the organisations representing French cinema), few observers believe that they will take advantage of it.

For the rest, based on numerous technical details, the new chronology also regulates the deadlines particularly for free-to-air TV, which will be able to broadcast films from 22 months after the cinema, or even 19 months if the works have not been acquired by Smad or in the second window by pay TV. It should also be noted that for works with a budget of more than €5M, free-to-air TV will have at least one month's exclusivity (the films cannot be available at the same time on all platforms).

Adaptation of the French system in an environment marked by the rapid growth of platforms and the need to find a point of convergence between increased availability of works, maintenance of a film financing architecture that optimises value for the various broadcasters, encouragement of agreements with the organisations representing French cinema (which guarantees the diversity of creation) and maintenance of the balance between incumbent operators and new entrants: this new look chronology is probably only a simple stage destined to be renegotiated relatively quickly (the SACD has refused to sign) due to the accelerated changes in the sector, with some professionals aiming at the exclusivity (in their eyes too long) of the cinema, while others fear that the possibilities opened up for co-exploitation between platforms and free-to-air TV will be to the detriment of the exposure of films not bought by pay TV. To be continued...

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(Translated from French)

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