San Sebastian Round Table Focuses on Legal Online

70% of Europeans download or stream films for free, whether legally or illegally

SAN SEBASTIAN– Branding, curation, adapted content creation, educational programs and new promotion initiatives are some of the key factors for carving out space and profile in world’s online arena for films, a San Sebastian Fest suggested Monday.

Organized by distributors’ network Europa Distribution, event turned on new strategies to fight piracy and explore possible ways for films to have own legal room online. This was the fifth event included under the European Film Forum banner. Event was hosted by Michael Gubbins, founder of London-based film consultancy outfit SampoMedia.

“A more seductive legal offer and a better enforcement of rights are two sides of the same coin. These complementary aspects are both part of our Digital Single Market strategy,” Lucía Recalde Langarica, the European Commission’s MEDIA (Creative Europe Media) new head told Variety.

Competitive, reduced prices for legal offers is one component to attract audiences to buy films legally. However it’s not enough. As content continues to move to different platforms and players, with more on demand availability, viewers need new filters to discover and experience video content online legally. A combination of discovery, ease of use, and attractive offers are the most essential key factors to take on piracy, said Kobi Shely, from Glasgow’s Distrify Media, an online promotional consultancy, active in 161 territories, specialized in monetizing content via VOD.

Shely told Variety that Distrify has recently secured a VOD deal with China’s state TV service CNTV. The landmark accord sees Distrify Media launching an international Chinese VOD portal to distribute locally produced films internationally.

“An effective enforcement, in particular against commercial scale infringements of copyright, is central to investment in innovation and job creation,” Recalde said. “We also need to clarify the rules applicable to the activities of online intermediaries in relation to copyrighted material. Platforms and other new digital players need to be involved in the creative economy,” she added.

Audiovisual rules will be reviewed in order to find the most appropriate way to promote European works, particularly online.

The good news for content providers is that in some countries, a legal digital market is growing. A 2015 U.K’.s Intellectual Property Office survey noted an increase of more than 10% in the take-up of legal services since 2013. However, 1 out of 5 U.K. Internet users still accesses content illegally.

In addition to regulatory measurements, education and support for film and library distribution are essential. “In a survey, the U.K. Intellectual Property Office found that young people – 15-24 year-olds-  are the most likely to have tried to access content and services available in other countries (almost one in five). There is a real potential,” she said.

Nearly 70% of Europeans download or stream films for free, whether legally or illegally, according to a 2014 European Commission study. It suggests that the European film industry can increase revenues by exploiting different types of profit-making online platforms to increase the availability of films and reach new audiences, Recalde said.

The Creative Europe MEDIA program supports the cross-border distribution of European films through several schemes targeting distributors and sales agents, via both automatic and selective schemes, and a network of cinemas, under the umbrella Europa Cinemas initiative. The same goes for TV distribution.

Media have started to cover online distribution by supporting the activities of European VOD services –Filmin in Spain, UK.’s Curzon or Austria’s Flemmit–, the subtitling and promotional elements ready to be made available on any VoD service, and the deployment of innovative models of distribution.

“While right holders are free to choose the best timing of release of their films, the projects show that their strategies of distribution should not be limited to cinema but rather encompass all platforms of distribution including VOD,” Recalde said.

She added: “It appears that the different distribution forms like cinema and VOD can complement each other efficiently, for example by maximizing the effect of marketing efforts and generating additional word-of-mouth.

Estela Artecho, prexy of Spanish distribution lobby Fedicine, said at the same round table that it would be crucial to receive more hard statistics from all the digital world and viewers in order to overhaul promotion strategies.

Joachim Keil, from Germany’s Daredo, a consultancy agency on implementing new strategies for the exploitation of media content (music, apps, movies, audiobooks…) underlined the need “to build an emotional link to the audience.”

In a similar line, Chris Anderson at Muso, a U.K. antipiracy consultancy company founded in 2008, said that “You need to grow your fanbase and connect with it. It’s a lot more complicated than just finding one fan base and going after. (…) Any illusion of controlling the audience is wrong. The top piracy site in France had 22 million unique visits in July. That is an opportunity if you can tap into that, but piracy is the competitive industry here.” said Anderson pointing out the necessity to roll back piracy.

“The future is here and things will change even faster than the people in the movie biz think. So people who understand that they need change things fast will have a much more interesting future, also commercially. But in my opinion only one third of companies existing now will exist in five years,” Keil told Variety.

More Film

  • it chapter two, comic con

    Comic-Con: 4500 Gallons of Fake Blood and Everything Else to Know About 'It Chapter Two''

    Comic-Con 2019 kicked off with a stacked presentation from the director and cast of “It Chapter Two” on Wednesday, inspiring a curious amount of joy at San Diego’s Spreckles Theater in spite of the abject terror offered up by the film. The closing chapter to 2017’s record-obliterating “It,” the highest grossing R-rated horror film of [...]

  • 'Between Me and My Mind' Review:

    Film Review: Trey Anastasio in 'Between Me and My Mind'

    Trey Anastasio doesn’t look like a rock star. With his thick rimless glasses and flop of sandy red hair, you might say he resembles John Sebastian, but really, he looks like a mashup of Mike White and Jon Cryer and the filmmaker Chris Smith. He’s an appealingly ordinary shaggy-geek dude, like some guy you might [...]

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    Dozen Feared Dead in Arson Attack on Japan's Kyoto Animation

    An arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company on Thursday morning in Japan has claimed the life of at least one person. But it is now feared that as many as 13 have been killed. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call around 10.35 a.m. local time reporting an explosion on the first floor [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

  • The Lion King

    Film News Roundup: PETA Sponsors Rescued Lion in Jon Favreau's Name

    In today’s film news roundup, PETA honors Jon Favreau for “The Lion King,” “Tigers Are Not Afraid” gets a theatrical release, a Kirk Franklin biopic is in development and “The Sixth Sense” gets an anniversary showing in Philadelphia. HONOR The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sponsoring a rescued lion to honor director [...]

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content