Netflix France "open to discussion and willing to change"
by Fabien Lemercier
- The platform, which will soon be legally obliged to contribute towards the funding of French audiovisual creations, has shown willingness at the ARP’s Film Meetings
The rocket is very nearly ready for take-off! The transposition into French law of the European AVMS directive, which will require SVoD platforms to offer a set quota of 30% European content in their repertoires and will oblige their entry into the circle of film and audiovisual financiers in France, is imminent.
Included within a vast audiovisual bill which will be unveiled on 4 December to the Council of Ministers, and which will go to the European Parliament in the first trimester of 2020, this audiovisual big-bang has kick-started negotiations between online platforms (first and foremost, Netflix) and French professional film organisations, who are looking to agree the details of the obligations - which might turn out to be rather high in number and somewhat technical in nature - from the determination of these platforms’ funding obligations (based on the overall number of French subscriptions these platforms enjoy, or the volume of series and films consumed) to the forms this finance might take (pre-purchasing or purchasing, without conditions or with safeguards to protect independent production, for example, etc.).
Invited to take part in a Dijon-based debate on the occasion of the ARP’s (French Civil Society of Authors-Directors-Producers) 29th Film Meetings, Netflix France’s director of institutional relations Marie-Laure Daridan showed herself to be open, but also cautious over the inevitable evolution of the platform (should these negotiations not prove fruitful – which is an unlikely scenario in most people’s minds, though obviously they will take some time – the French regulatory authority will be authorised to call time on the affair, which would place online platforms in a state of illegality): "we view this bill in a very positive light. It is in line with our intentions and our current activities in France, where we now have more than 6 million subscribers after just five years on French soil. We want to develop local content with local talent for a local audience. In 2019, we launched 15 Netflix original French projects, notably series such as Mortel by Frédéric Garcia (with Mandarin Télévision), a young director and graduate of La Fémis. In 2020, we will launch a similar volume of works with, among others, Révolution and Arsène Lupin (starring Omar Sy in the lead role). Added to this are our acquisitions of works such as Street Flow by Kery James (which was watched in 2.6 million homes worldwide in just seven days), The Crew [+see also:
film profile] and The Wolf’s Call [+see also:
film profile] for which we achieved one of our best ever results worldwide for a non-English language film, and for which we acquired the rights for all remaining territories. We chose to invest in France before we were ever obliged to do so. There will, of course, be a need for discussions, but we are ready to begin inter-professional negotiations. This is all very new for us, but we are confident that we will be able to reach an agreement that satisfies all parties."
A significant change seems already to have been enacted within Netflix France, from a contractual point of view, given that American regulations granting producers the final word and the final cut (as opposed to the French law, which recognises the moral right of the creator) are no longer applicable, according to Marie-Laure Daridan: "the reality is simple: all our contracts are in line with French law, including those relating to moral rights." Moreover, in terms of transparency over viewing figures, the small steps that have been taken are quite significant for a platform which once was utterly opaque over this matter: "we have changed and listened. For some months, we have been communicating performance data to producers and film talent within seven days of receiving it".
Netflix France’s director of institutional relations was, however, far more reserved on the subject of the duration of film exploitation rights, declaring it a matter for future negotiations (alongside many others). She also took advantage of the occasion to move her own pieces across the board: "alongside these obligations, I understand that there will be a review of French release windows. There is an obvious complementarity between cinema auditoriums and the service we provide. Outside of France, we release our films in cinemas, but here we are subject to “media chronology” legislation. What’s important to us is the satisfaction of our subscribers because they are the ones who ultimately fund our content. But, if they have to wait a while or a very long while to see a film on Netflix, the situation starts to become complicated..." It was a tactical manoeuvre, to which one professional in the room responded by wondering aloud why the series Peaky Blinders was classified as an Original Netflix work (her response: "to make it more visible, to help it stand out within the vast Netflix offering, but we’re prepared to discuss this matter further"). In short, it was a barbed exchange, which promises to turn into an interesting game of chess on the occasion of the upcoming negotiations. Either way, the outcome should result in a life-saving windfall for French productions and their funding, though the exact form this windfall will take – and whether the whole of the sector will benefit from it equally - remains to be seen. To be continued…
(Translated from French)
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