EU connects film, online exex

Meeting aims to create alliance with content, infrastructure co.s

A huddle of heavyweight honchos, repping some of Europe’s largest telco, ISP and content companies, will attend Tuesday’s first pan-Euro summit on the online delivery of European movies.

The aim, said European Commissioner Viviane Reding, is to forge an alliance between content and infrastructure companies.

The Leadership Summit on Film Online will be attended by a litany of industry luminaries: Jean Bernard Levy, CEO, Vivendi; Tiscali Intl. CEO Ruud Huisman; Ricardo Perissich, CEO of Telecom Italia Media; Didier Bellens, CEO of Belgacom; On-demand Group CEO Andy Birchall; SACD Rogard; CNC president Catherine Colonna; BBC chairman Mark Thompson; Fred Kogel, CEO of Constantin Film; U.K. film Council president John Woodward; Zentropa’s Peter Aalbeck Jensen; Jean Claude Hourcade, VP of Thomson; Raj Raithaltha, CEO Versatel Telecom; and Gaumont prexy Nicolas Seydoux.

Jeff Bewkes, chairman, entertainment and networks, TimeWarner will fly into Cannes to attend the meeting.

“The E.U. has researched methods to secure online products and services. But to put them into practice, you need a joint venture between infrastructure and content sectors,” Reding told Variety.

“Infrastructure needs content, and content needs infrastructure,” she added.

On Tuesday morning, the E.U.’s 25 culture ministers will address the same issues from a political angle. Michael Winterbottom has been invited as a guest of honor at the morning meet.

One issue that may be tabled at the ministers’ meet could be a pump-priming system aiding businesses offering European films online.

Reding stressed that the E.U. did not contemplate online quotas.

“The aim is to find industrial solutions which might need political intervention, maybe on industrial standards,” she added.

Reding called online “an opportunity” for European films. The lack of arthouses in many parts of Europe certainly encourages Euro films online consumption — legal or otherwise.

So piracy of key European films is higher than their market share may indicate.

An E.U. online policy is unlikely to coalesce quickly, however: there are multiple legal hoops to go through, Reding argued.

At Cannes, Reding met for the first time with the MPAA’s newly anointed chairman Dan Glickman.

“We share common problems over copyright and piracy. We have agreed to exchange experiences,” she said.

So, no flashpoints?

“Glickman and I have decided to concentrate on the issues where we can agree, where common action can help films on both sides of the Atlantic,” Reding said.

When speaking about online issues, Reding maintained a steely seriousness.

But, for the first time, when mentioning the MPAA topper, she breaks into a smile.

Reding will travel to Washington in July: A sign of a building U.S.-E.U. entente cordiale?

Kristen Konvitz contributed to this story.

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