San Sebastian: European Film Forum Analyses Youth Auds, Measuring Digital Success

European content needs to cross borders and generations, said Media Program’s Martin Dawson

European Film Forum Analyses Youth Auds,
Photo by Iñigo Ibañez

SAN SEBASTIAN — Two of Europe’s oldest type of TV network, public broadcasters NRK and RTVE, shared center stage with Movistar Plus, one of Europe’s new game-changing operators, at San Sebastian’s European Film Forum on Sunday morning.

Unlike its Venice counterpart, where Commissioner Gunther Oettinger expounded on a step-by-step, targeted approach to a unified digital market in Europe, the San Sebastian Forum, entitled Audiences in Motion, had a more practical bent, examining best-case practices and strategies for reaching youth and international audiences, and how to measure success.

That is a matter of urgent concern. The theatrical film market share for non-national European films in the European Union is around 10%, compared to up to 70% for American films, said Martin Dawson, deputy head of unit at the European Commission’s Media Program.

Also “People under 30 have a tendency to avoid traditional media like cinemas and TV,” reflected keynote speaker Stefan Schmitz at Avalon, a Madrid-based production-distribution house.

He added: “The audiovisual industry will have to rethink the creation and distribution of content and reconquer millennials in order to stay competitive.”

Netflix have begun to acquire and even produce Spanish movies, Schmitz observed. That said, VOD platforms’ audiences are highly focused, he adding, citing the case of Filmin, a Spanish SVOD movie-TV service where, over weekends, eight films, no more, account for a majority of views.

Financed by a mix of subsidy, levies and advertising, Europe’s state-backed have an urgent need to connect with younger demographies as part of their public service remit. Yet the average audience age of European pubcaster is 40-45, according to a study, “Understanding Young Audiences,” commissioned by the European Broadcasting Union.

The most obvious way to target younger users is via the web. At a first Audiences in Motion round table, Marianne Furevold-Boland, a producer at Norway’s NRK, presented “Shame,” an NRK web series feature the loves and friendships of five teen girls. It hit 1.26 million users by the end of its second season in  a country of only 5.2 million people. One key was “real time” release: If a party happened on Friday night, the episode featuring it was made available on a Friday night, she explained.

RTVE, Spain’s nationwide public broadcaster, first targeted youth audiences creating a video game spinoff of its hit primetime historical adventure series “Red Eagle,” said Fernando Lopez Puig, the director of TVE’s film and fiction department. It has now created a VR version of its cult time-travel drama, “El Ministerio del Tiempo,” and a Spanish “Life in a Day,” with all of its contents webcast, he added.

France’s Camille Lopato explained how she had opened a 17-seat VR cinema., despite VR being regarded as home not location-based entertainment. Its clients were increasingly young people seeking the experience of watching VR, and to transmit it to their friends. The main challenge: the lack of VR content.

Digital has redefined not only how content reaches audiences but the attainment and valuation of distribution success, said Felipe Ponton, director of development at Telefonica’s Movistar Plus, at a second panel on data analytics.

“Notoriousness” and a qualitative customer assessment” are two new criteria, he argued.

For VOD platforms, editorialising and branding are key to gain and retain audiences, observed Tania Sutherland at Mubi.

If there is a European audience for European series and films, this could be a matter of language, added Arturo Guillen, VP, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at audience measurement company Comscore.