The European VoD market still has plenty of room for expansion, say the experts at Venice
- VENICE 2021: At the conference hosted by the Venice Production Bridge, industry players discussed recent VoD growth trends and the main challenges faced by distributors, rights holders and streamers
On 5 September, Hotel Excelsior’s Spazio Incontri hosted an insightful conference titled “The new face of the VoD industry in Europe: challenges, opportunities and responsibilities.” The event, organised by EuroVoD during this year’s Venice Production Bridge (2-7 September), represented a unique opportunity for distributors, rights holders and streamers to discuss the latest trends emerging in the VoD world.
Firstly, Venice Production Bridge’s head Pascal Diot highlighted the role of Venice as “one of the first A-list festivals that opened doors to the world of VoD.” For this year’s edition, he confirmed the participation of ten platforms on-site and six online. The floor was then given to EuroVoD’s representative Marc Putman, who talked through the role of the association and its sponsors and financial partners, including the Creative Europe/MEDIA programme, which has been praised for its support and efforts to promote cultural diversity. “This conference intends to be a bridge between right holders and platforms,” he said, explaining how this phase is crucial as COVID created much economic damage, but also accelerated the process of digital content consumption. Meanwhile, SampoMedia’s Michael Gubbins, stressed the importance of building a sustainable ecosystem capable of nurturing talent and intercept European audiences.
In his keynote presentation, Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson provided several key figures on the VoD ecosystem’s recent trends. In detail, he explained that AVoD is growing rapidly and we are seeing an alteration of the content supply value chain and of the role of theatrical release, leading to more concentration of power at the source of supply. European SVoD keeps on recording record growth, and much of it comes from the users brought by new platforms, and in particular Disney+. However, Europe (in particular, Central and Eastern Europe) has still plenty of room for expansion, especially compared to the saturated Northern American market. SVoD services per household also keep on growing, averaging 2.4 in Central-Eastern Europe, 2.5 in Western Europe and 4.4 in North America.
Among other market changes, he said that content strategies are beginning to align around competitive groupings. In detail, he identified three groupings; giant catalogues in the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, hosting generally good content; smaller, curated, high-quality movie-led catalogues and other medium to small catalogues of fair quality and diversified content. Bisson argued that European platforms need to think like a global streamer to compete and that, regardless of their size, value proposition is key for their growth. This can only be achieved through solid content brand strategies, he concluded. In the final part of his contribution, Bisson outlined how original streaming movie commissions in Europe show current film zeitgeist, and in particular films revolving around romantic escapes, featuring “other worlds” or “other lives” or focusing on fights for survival, with a clear sense of claustrophobia.
Later, OpSec Security’s director of AntiPiracy Product Management Robin Boldon (attending remotely from London) spoke about piracy audience trends and patterns. He noted how P2P file sharing, paid IPTV and mobile apps are still among the most popular piracy methods, despite law enforcement activities. Moreover, recent times have seen a surge in pirated streams of live and on-demand content on social media or accessed through crypto payments. The projected commercial impact of piracy will reach $215 billion in 2022 (117 of these come from exclusive series, 55 from live sports rights and 12 from early VoD releases). Moreover, 2.6 million European consumers currently not using pirate streaming platforms are expected to access them in the future. In broader terms, 17% of global streaming users still access content illegally. Speaking about anti-piracy strategies, he mentioned the crucial importance of intelligence-driven, “suppress and disrupt” approaches, capable of forecasting piracy behaviours and tactics, suppressing content so it’s perceived as less available by consumers and disrupting the entire commercial ecosystem behind piracy.
After a short break, Tënk’s Mohamed Sifaoui gave a short overview on the environmental impact of digital technologies. What SVoD and VoD players can do is to eco-design their platforms, to raise awareness, to stop using automatic very high resolution, to discourage binge watching and to reduce the impact of servers, data centres and clouding. Therefore, the whole model needs to be rethought, and this implies the idea of generating less profits to avoid serious environmental crises.
The conference was rounded off by an open discussion seeing the participation of Putman, Gubbins, EFAD’s (the European Association of National Film and Audiovisual Agencies) secretary general Julie-Jeanne Régnault, Roskino’s Evgenia Markova and UsherU’s Agustina Lumi. Markova spoke about the growing Russian market, currently generating $24 billion through entertainment and media service. The sector’s profits increased dramatically over the last four years (from $183 to $670 million), and the positive trend is expected to continue in the coming years, driven by a raft of young regional auteurs. Régnault touched upon the AVSMD and its main provisions supporting diversity in the promotion and production of European works: the 30% VoD quota and the prominence obligation as well as, more importantly, the possibility to impose financial obligations on cross-border services. Levies and direct investment obligations applicable to streamers, she added, are spreading all over Europe. Putman spoke about EuroVoD but also about his own business effort, OUTtv, active in 12 countries and following a more old-fashioned pay TV model offering LGBT-focused contents. Next, Lumi’s intervention covered several topics such as communicating with the audience and how data should be used to attract users towards “your site, your powerhouse,” a practice that is not always followed by players which end up driving audiences on other websites. Gubbins closed the discussion by mentioning the increased spirit of co-operation in lieu of the past “defending approach” in the industry, hoping to exit the healthcare crisis as soon as possible.
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