Industry – Europe
Industry Report: Digital
Göteborg’s Nostradamus 2018: Time to evolve
by Vassilis Economou
- The annual report written by Johanna Koljonen sheds light on all of the crucial aspects that will shape the film and media industry in the coming five years
For the fifth consecutive year, media analyst Johanna Koljonen has presented the annual report of the Nostradamus Project. Bearing the eloquent and clearly cautionary title “Do or Die?”, the report aims to predict the changes in the next three to five years in the film and media industry, through analyses and interviews with experts. Here we examine the most salient points presented in the four chapters of the 2018 Nostradamus report.
We start with Five Fateful Years for Film, which is focused on the striking differences between TV or SVoD’s rapidly adaptable business model, which can offer versatile, boundless content to the audience, and the ageing and rather conservative film industry – and the even slower-paced funding system on the European level. Younger generations do not tend to adopt the media habits of the past, while Netflix and Amazon are making the home the principal ecosystem for films and audiovisual consumption for the coming years. Claus Ladegaard, CEO of the Danish Film Institute, expresses his concerns: “We [European content creators] have basically already almost lost it.”
Unavoidably, we assume that the broadcasters will dictate the future of funding and, of course, the content available to the final audience. Financial problems are already visible, and the lack of any evaluation of the films created just makes things worse. Edith Sepp, CEO of the Estonian Film Institute, is concerned about this content overhaul: “The filmmakers, the authors, will say, ‘Shut up and give us the money, we know where it goes,’ but this is a huge problem.” It seems as though the lack of a long-term strategy could be fatal for the industry, but as Ladegaard colourfully states: “We can figure out solutions to almost all of these challenges. But I don’t think we’re just fucked.”
As the film industry fights for survival, TV, which used to be the enemy, is also going through an enormous transition, as pointed out in All Swept into the Stream. Time slots seem to be obsolete, as the control has now passed to the viewer and the content is adapted to what is considered customer-orientated, focusing less on what would fill the “prime time”. Services are slowly substituting linear media consumption, with transactional VoD (TVoD) becoming “a replacement for DVD or Blu-ray and a better distribution channel”, according to Marie Nilsson, CEO of Mediavision. Public and private broadcasters that are key players in Europe have started offering their digital libraries to the audience as a way to satisfy the impending demand, while non-broadcasters like YouTube or Facebook want their market share.
Even for an older audience that is more reluctant to use streaming services, AVoD (advertising-financed VoD) offers them premium content free of charge, with Channel 4’s Walter Presents already proving to be a model to follow. Its co-founder, Walter Iuzzolino, mentions, “I haven’t flicked on the TV for years! In five years’ time, I genuinely think that the integration of streaming and TV will have been, if not completed, then 75% advanced.” Of course, everything will undergo an inevitable normalisation, since territoriality in Europe looks set to disappear in the coming years, especially after the launch of the Digital Single Market (DSM), and with the striking broadcasting differences with the US market starting to become less pronounced. For the EU, it is important to maintain this entire evolutionary procedure under a solid legal system that will have to both protect the rights holder but also allow more players into the new, open digital market.
So, the question arises of whether the “traditional” experience of watching films will still exist. According to Soul of the Cinemas: Experiences or Exclusivity?, the market will be able to adapt, since theatres are now revenue generators, and they are far from dead, given that they can either evolve technologically or offer a unique live social experience. The collapse of DVD-based home entertainment is pushing the audience to demand a theatrical experience without immediately shifting to VoD. This allows exhibitors to demand exclusivity from the studios to make a profit before the same film ends up on a streaming service, and to create an organic relationship with their audience via social or personal engagement. According to Patrick von Sychowski, editor at Celluloid Junkie, “We are seeing the reinvention of cinema as a social medium where people congregate and are willing to pay quite a premium to see a film they’ve probably seen several times before or could see online.”
Despite all of these marketing tools being used, content remains king, and diversification is key. The traditional glocal European market is trying to avoid the struggle between niche, publicly funded arthouse films and commercial cinema in order to be able to expand and still manage to be profitable in a global economy. Furthermore, European productions that are used to small crews and lower budgets can take advantage of new technologies. By sculpting future content with pure artificial intelligence tools like ScriptBook, there will be a drastic increase in efficiency. As ScriptBook’s CEO, Nadira Azermai, explains: “We can perform a fully automated analysis of each script in less than four minutes, and we generate a financial forecast. We’ve got a green-light accuracy rate of around 82%; humans have an accuracy rate of around 31%.”
On the subject of diversification, ScriptBook revealed another flaw in today’s content, as most of the 15,000 scripts analysed failed the gender-equality test, as the last part of the report, Time Not up Just Yet, reveals. From Trump’s sexual harassment accusations to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, and through thorough analysis, Johanna Koljonen showcases all of the events that have raised social awareness of gender equality in the past year.
The marginalisation of female creators is more evident in Hollywood, as only 4% of the top 1,100 films in the USA between 2007 and 2017 were directed by women. In Europe, the reality is only slightly better and remains far from equal, as 84% of public funds are allocated to male directors, and the pay gap in France alone is 31.5%. This competitive environment means that female directors are successful, as only the strongest can survive. While there are still hopes that some institutions, like the Swedish Film Institute and Creative England, may reach full gender parity by 2020, the rest of the industry will certainly take more than five years.
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