U.S.-Euro trade gap widens as H'w'd rolls on

PARIS — Tensions concerning U.S. dominance of the European media market could be exacerbated by the release of new data about trade imbalances.

The trade gap for film and TV product between the U.S. and Europe widened significantly last year — almost a billion-dollar bump in favor of U.S. exports. The gap is set to widen further in figures compiled from this year as the European digital TV market gobbles up Hollywood product.

According to initial figures from the Montpellier-based consulting company IDATE, U.S. exports to Europe — which include TV shows, feature films and homevideos — were worth $7 billion last year, while European exports to the U.S. were valued at just $506 million. That represents an $848 million increase in the deficit between Europe and the U.S. compared with 1994.

Although no concrete figures are yet available for this year, the Kirch Group’s megabuck shopping spree for Hollywood product to feed its German digital platform DF1 and significant output agreements between the Hollywood majors and rival French digital operators Television Par Satellite and Canal Satelite, are likely to further widen the trade disparity.

IDATE estimates the global audiovisual market was worth $168 billion last year, and that the biggest growth region was Europe, where business increased by 13%. Europe currently accounts for more than 50% of U.S. media exports worldwide.

Free is where it’s at

Despite the growth in cable and satellite channels across Europe, free-TV sales continue to provide the bulk of business for the Hollywood majors.

IDATE put the value of those sales at $1.27 billion last year, a 14% hike over 1994. The only European territory that reduced its acquisition of U.S. product was Spain, largely because Spanish broadcasters picked up considerable quantities of Latin American product in 1995.

Euro stalemate

On the film front, Europeans appear nowhere nearer achieving their dream of persuading Euro audiences to watch Euro pics. Box office results for U.S. films in Germany alone are equivalent to the total cumulative box office results of all European films across Europe.

While IDATE has not yet published its annual the World Film & Television Market analysis, its initial findings are likely to strengthen the French resolve to continue pushing for a European policy in defense of local product.

Traditionally the French have countered U.S. charges of protectionism by pointing to the huge audiovisual trade difference between Europe and the U.S.

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