ANNECY, France — The French Animation Producers’ Union (SPFA) is threatening legal action against France’s Canal Plus, accusing the pay TV giant of trying to renegotiate downwards deal memos signed with French independent animation producers by about 20% of commissioned budgets, according to reports.
If Canal Plus does not honor the deal memos, the SPFA said this Thursday at Annecy that it would initiate actions to take it to court.
A Canal Plus source declined to comment on alleged attempts at renegotiation of animation show budgets. SPFA representatives were unavailable for comment.
“A deal memo has the same legal value as a contract. If the situation is not resolved, we are ready to drive legal action,” SPFA managing director Stéphane Lebars is quoted as saying at an Annecy press conference by TV publication C21.
Canal Plus stopped honoring deals signed with French animation producers about three months ago, the SPFA claimed. The financing stand-off affects about 10 animated program commissions on shows that are now in production.
The SPFA complaints come less than a month after an article in France’s L’Express claimed that Canal Plus was attempting to renegotiate royalty payments to a string of French authors collection societies, including France’s powerful SACD Authors’ Society, the oldest in the world.
The SPFA allegations also came, ironically, just hours before Canal Plus will hold its own press conference at Annecy this Thursday evening, where it was expected to outline new program commissions.
“The issue of a 20% renegotiation of rights is of huge concern to the French animation sector,” said one observer.
They went on: “Canal Plus is sending mixed signals. On one hand, it is saying: ‘No, no, we aren’t calling into question our investment into kids programming, we still believe it’s important.’”
“At the same time, it is cutting budgets. The whole industry is wondering what is going on with Canal Plus. A 20% reduction in commissioned budgets would certainly affect the quality of animation shows,” the observer added.
Allegations of attempts at renegotiation are kicking in less than a year after Canal Plus parent Vivendi announced in a results call last August that it would drive to cut annual costs by €300 million ($334 million) by 2018.
Ironically, Canal Plus’ apparent pull-back on budget comes as France’s animation industry, already one of Europe’s biggest, has been living the first phase of what many regard as a golden age.
Turbo-charged by new incentives from France’s CNC film-TV board, which were introduced Jan. 1 2016 to spark the relocation of French animation shows to France, French TV toon production shot up last year by 36% to 388 produced hours, accounting for €256.3 million ($285.6 million) in total aggregate budgets, according to a June CNC report.
Exact export revenues for French TV animation last year will be announced at a TV France Intl. Rendez-Vous in September. They also look promising, however.
“Last year, co-productions and pre-sales of French TV animation were up significantly. We expect figures for sales to increase significantly,” said TVFI’s Mathieu Bejot.