Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
At the MIA, panellists ask: “Are free models set to reshape the European VoD landscape?”
The urgency of intercepting younger audiences, exploiting library titles and public support were among the topics tackled during the discussion
On 13 October, Rome’s MIA hosted a panel titled “Is the Future Free? How Will New Free Models Reshape VoD in Europe?” The event, moderated by journalist and analyst Michael Gubbins, saw the participation of Italy’s Creative Europe Desk – MEDIA and Cinecittà reps Enrico Bufalini and Giuseppe Massaro, along with Manuel Alduy, of France Télévisions; Cristina Sala, of AVoD, Samsung TV Plus Italia; Simone Emmelius, of ZDF; and Antonella Dominici, of Pluto TV.
In his introductory speech, Bufalini touched upon Italy’s current production boom, made possible by new distribution models and considerable public support, but he also reminded those present of how the theatres are suffering, hoping that new productions may bring back the audience. Gubbins began by asking the speakers, “What to do in a world where even the disruptors are being disrupted [and] fun never stops?”
Alduy said that he feels that he works for one of the broadcasters being disrupted. He explained that France Télévisions is slowly investing in AVoD and free VoD platforms, but there is a problem with the age divide. Someone 40 or above watches television for 5.5 hours, whilst people aged under 35 tend to watch it for two hours, and spend two more on AVoD and SVoD services. “The problem is that we don’t want to lose the old people who love us and watch us, so we need to balance our budget between linear spending for TV series and films, but [bear in mind that] we don’t spend enough for a non-linear offering. And even when you’re a public service paid by taxpayers, you still need AVoD money in order to invest more and survive possible budget cuts.
“Our audience is, on average, over 60. If we don’t involve younger audiences, and I’m sorry to say this, but in 20 years, these people will be dead. And I’m not talking about the kids – we’ve lost them – but at least [we could hang on to] people aged 30-55,” he added. He also explained how important it is for AVoD to feature “linear content” so that those who are not familiar with streaming can gradually move out of linear.
Emmelius said that the German situation is different, owing to the local media law that limits the presence of advertising spaces for pubcasters. In particular, whatever they offer on non-linear channels has to be provided without ads. Similarly to France, they face the issue of the audience getting older and older. The strategy that ZDF is pursuing to limit this problem is to offer more and more content targeting specific niches.
Sala told attendees that Samsung TV Plus is not a disruptor, since it is based on linear channels and VoD, and co-operates with standalone VoD platforms and other players, such as Sky. The system is different since it is pre-installed, and she defined FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels as vertical ones that a distributor can create to make content available for free, usually out of its own intellectual property. For the time being, the audience seems to enjoy having channels dedicated to series, watching all episodes in one go. “We’re in the ‘big 5’ in Europe, but we’re also developing our market in the other 16 countries. The changes have gone really fast, and I’m learning every day from the Old World,” she revealed.
Dominici said that Pluto TV, within the broader Paramount ecosystem, is one of the ways to exploit content that is no longer premium: “It remains premium in terms of quality, but it is more of a library. We’re featuring our own productions, but also collecting content from other producers. [...] We have more than 70 million users across the world, and over 1,000 channels distributing content via syndication or customised channels. We work together with our partners to define the type of content they aim to deliver.”
Next, Alduy and Emmelius agreed that the development of the AVoD landscape may bring great benefits to the whole ecosystem, since the shared focus should be on exploiting content, rather than “instant competition”.
Later, Massaro mentioned the brand-new European VoD Networks and Operators call, where applicants must present a minimum catalogue of 1,000 works, and 30% of these must be from countries participating in the MEDIA strand. The catalogue should include audiovisual works from at least five countries participating in the MEDIA strand, representing at least five different official languages of these participating countries. The two-year call aims to support networks and operators screening a significant proportion of non-national European works with the goal of improving their competitiveness. Activities can last from 24-36 months, there is no threshold for the requested amounts, and the co-financing rate is set at 60%.
The event was rounded off by the closing remarks of Martin Dawson, Deputy Head of Unit Audiovisual Industry and Media Support Programmes at the European Commission.
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