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EU ups funding for VOD, digital film

European Commission approves $7.15 million

The European Union has upped funding for video-on-demand and digital cinema distribution projects to meet higher than expected demand.

The European Commission approved e4.9 million ($7.15 million) in grants from its Media program for 12 projects Monday, overstepping the $5.8 million set aside when bids were invited this year.

While the 2008 budget is not set, officials will propose a further increase to $8.6 million next year, a spokesman explained, “and there is the possibility to go higher.”

Rather than commit funds for multi-year projects, the EC prefers to review the situation year-by-year. “If people do what they say they will do, we will stand by them and continue to fund them,” the official explained.

An increased budget for 2008 covers continued funding for this year’s selection and a few new projects. The EU picks up between 30% and 50% of the project costs.

Eleven of the 12 projects funded are VOD, reflecting the maturity of the market compared to digital cinema. France has done particularly well, with four successful projects, including bids from MK2 Multimedia and Ideale Audience.

The largest grant goes to the Skandinavia movie channel, based in Denmark, for its Filmmakers’ Independent Digital Distribution project. This offers independent producers a platform for the digitization and distribution of their films, in return for which they become co-owners of the project.

This is already turning a profit in the Nordic countries as a pay TV channel. Some 125 filmmakers are participating, including Bille August, Lars Von Trier and Susanne Bier.

According to managing director Niels Aalbaek Jensen, the EU funding will allow them to build a broader VOD offer and begin extending their coverage to the rest of Europe. This will be done through a series of country-specific businesses under the name Movieropa. The EU will pick up $1.4 million of the project’s $4.8 million budget.

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