×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Netflix Forces French Biz to Try to Modernize Digital Landscape

The launch of Netflix has prompted French industryites and lawmakers to think harder about solutions to modernize the country’s digital landscape. So it’s no coincidence that the annual Rencontres Cinematographiques de Dijon, a three-day confab hosted by ARP (the guild of authors, directors and producers) from Oct. 16-18, will debate long-gestating yet pressing issues, such as piracy, tax regulations, investment quotas and the sacrosanct window release schedule.

A couple of years ago, Francois Hollande’s government appointed Pierre Lescure to lead a vast industry mission to amend Hadopi, the anti-piracy law implemented by former president Nicolas Sarkozy. But since releasing his report in May, nothing has been done with regards to piracy.

While Hadopi hasn’t been scrapped, its one sanction, which suspended offenders’ Internet subscriptions after three warnings, was removed in July.

“Piracy is (thriving) in France, and the fact that the government has not been punishing it more severely for the last two years is definitely feeding the beast,” says Vincent Grimond, president and co-founder of Wild Bunch, which owns FilmoTV, France’s first SVOD service.

Meanwhile, local VOD outfits have been plagued by the proliferation of Popcorn Time, a free, open-source app available for Windows, Mac and Linux, that lets users stream the latest movies in high resolution. It has been deemed illegal pretty much everywhere in the world, including France, and has had to move its servers a couple of times.

“Popcorn Time is a business killer for everyone involved in VOD,” Grimond says. “It’s got a terrific catalog, subtitles in nearly every language, and it’s untraceable.”

The strict window release schedule is another obstacle to fighting piracy in France. Movies can’t get on VOD services earlier than four to six months after the theatrical release, and have to wait 36 months to roll on SVOD. Discussions to bring the SVOD window down to 22 months have stalled due to the fierce opposition of exhibitors and TV groups such as Canal Plus that invest in films and are therefore entitled to a window of exclusivity 10 months after the theatrical release.

“These VOD windows are the Guantanamo of movies,” says Pascal Rogard, managing director of  the Society of Authors, Composers and Directors. Rogard says he has submitted to the government a proposal to allow Canal Plus to show movies six months after their theatrical rollout. In exchange, Canal Plus would greenlight the distribution of movies on VOD before the current four-to-six-month time period.

Grimond says the real problem of the current window release schedule is the “one-size-fits-all” mandate that goes with it. “In the U.S., where the schedule of releases is negotiated contractually between the distributors and the exhibitors, the outcome remains similar to ours, but the system is flexible enough to allow for some highly successful experiments, such as the recent day-and-date release of ‘Snowpiercer’ by TWC-Radius.”

Meanwhile, with Netflix on everyone’s radar, French players have been lobbying the government and the European Commission to give the U.S. service the same tax rate and investment quotas as local VOD platforms in order to create a more even playing field.

The battle has been half-won: Starting next year, all VOD services distributing content in France will have to pay the same value-added tax of 19.6% on VOD sales regardless of where they’re based.

But Netflix, which is headquartered in Luxembourg, is still not obligated to invest 15% of its revenues in European films and 12% in French ones as every local service with annual revenues exceeding €10 million ($12.6 million) does.

However, the real issue is not just to have Netflix buy more French content, says Florence Gastaud, managing director of ARP. “ISP platforms today have tremendous power, and we need to make sure groups like Bouygues and Orange, which will soon start distributing Netflix, will reference properly French content on the service and maximize its exposure.”

Chris Libertelli, Netflix’s head of global public policy, will be on hand at the confab to discuss open networks and network neutrality, a subject that will undoubtedly heat up the debate.

As Gastaud points out: “The digital space is still a no-man’s land when it comes to regulations.”

The question is: for how long?

More Digital

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Sirius Logo

    SiriusXM Unveils $8 Essential Plan for Consumers Without Cars

    SiriusXM wants to cater consumers without cars, or cars without compatible stereos, with a new $8 plan for mobile and in-home listening. Dubbed SiriusXM Essential, the plan offers access to 200+ channels featuring the network’s entire music programming, as well comedy, news and select sports channels. Consumers will be able to test the new plan [...]

  • Mueller Report Book Editions Top Amazon's

    Mueller Report Book Editions Shoot to Top of Best-Seller Lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble

    Robert Mueller is now a best-selling author. Book publishers’ forthcoming editions of the special counsel’s report zoomed to the top of the Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s lists of book best-sellers Friday. That comes a day after the report was publicly released, culminating the nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election [...]

  • Marques Brownlee - Retro Tech

    YouTube Orders Marques Brownlee 'Retro Tech' Original Series

    YouTube has turned to one of its homegrown stars — technology vlogger Marques Brownlee, aka “MKBHD” — for its newest original series. The video platform has greenlit series “Retro Tech” featuring Brownlee, in which he’ll unbox and review vintage technology products that have defined pop culture. The show, slated to debut in December 2019, follows [...]

  • Netflix Tests Random Episode Button in

    Netflix Starts Testing Random Episode Button

    Netflix is testing a button to play random episodes of select TV shows, the company confirmed Friday morning. “We are testing the ability for members to play a random episode from different TV series on the Android mobile app,” a Netflix spokesperson told Variety. “These tests typically vary in length of time and by region, [...]

  • Netflix Our Planet Sophie Darlington

    Netflix's 'Our Planet' Roars to Life With Work by Top Wildlife Cinematographers

    In terms of scope, production time and — very likely — budget, Netflix’s “Our Planet” is one of the most ambitious projects from the streaming service to date. Narrated by David Attenborough and made available worldwide on April 5, the goal of the eight-part series is to capture diverse habitats across the globe and highlight [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content