San Sebastián: E.U.’s Creative Europe Media Head Lucía Recalde Talks Up Digital Promotion

Festival seminar focus on new market and financing opportunities for European companies

SAN SEBASTIAN —  Upped from 20% to 30% at a European Council of Ministers this May, the so-called Netflix Quota – an E.U. proposed minimum percentage of European content required of international video streaming platforms – may have some impact on various platforms in certain E.U. countries.

What seems unquestionable, however, is that not only national governments and directives but the E.U.’s Media Program, a targeted support system for film and TV in Europe, is taking on board the paramount importance of VOD delivery for European production, as was made clear by declarations of Media Program head Lucia Recalde at a San Sebastián Festival seminar on Sept. 24, All 4 One.

“It is good to have content available but more and more important to have the content more visibly shown on the platforms,” Recalde said.

Promotion of European digital platform content is “possibly the most important topic we want to discuss with the industry in the context of the future discussion of the Media Program,” she added, arguing that social media promotion allows content creators to reach out to “young audiences” and “new communities.”

Gong forward, Netflix, Amazon and other platforms could be subject to investment quotas, as already in place in France for Canal Plus, or levies whose returns would be plowed into a fund for local content – a German scheme approved by the European Commission but contested by Netflix.

“Regarding content quotas, the situation is not the same for platforms in all countries,” Recalde said.

This is confirmed by a new Ampere Analysis report, “SVoD Content Strategies: The Drive for Originality (Thinking Local, Going Global). According to its findings, country-of-origin content in the territories Netflix operates in varies from 1% of its total content (Denmark) to just over 10% (the U.K.). European content levels could take these percentages up to 30%-or-over in some territories, however.

But VOD platforms which promote European content are vital. In one of the three panel sessions at 4 For All, Muriel Joly at Under the Milky Way International, a VOD aggregator, reiterated that while making the content available is a nice start, it means very little if it is not marketed properly. According to Joly, “getting people to know the films are on the platform is the most important thing.”

Sophie de Mac Mahon of Flix Olé stressed that the real challenge for a VOD player is picking up new subscribers. “The most difficult thing isn’t the cost, it’s the moment you say they need to sign up and put in their credit card.” This is the hurdle that all players, large and small, must find ways to overcome. The general consensus among the assembled industry professionals was that a free trial, whatever the duration, is one key. Mac Mahon noted that, “as a platform you want people to get to know you, and what better place to know you than on your own platform.”

Representing TAPE Consultancy at the forum was company managing director John Peek who discussed ways in which the company quantifies what goes into making a successful series. Of the myriad of possible factors, the obvious stand outs are the characters. While explaining the equations used by his company, originally developed for marketing companies who used them to determine the best programs for advertising, he pointed out that “more than 50% of the appeal factors that we look at are character driven.”

Discussing larger trends in the TV market, Peek recalled that in his 25 years of attending the L.A. Screenings, he has come to realize that the U.S. market is slow to adapt, but that changes can be seen .One such trend has been a decrease in number of new shows present at the screenings.

“The clear reason for that is that they are not canceling as many, and they are not doing it because they are waiting for catch-up viewing.” Peek said that with more than 50% of viewing now being done through catch-up, networks have to take a more wait-and-see approach to whether their shows are connecting with audiences.

In a final session focusing on financing, Pedro Martín at Spain’s Crea SGR, a bank guarantee scheme facilitating bridging loans for clients, revealed that much of its focus now turned on operations with Asociaciones de Interés Económico (AIEs), tax vehicles used ever more to finance films in Spain. Patricia Motilla, at Andersen Tax & Legal, pinpointed a positive evolution in tax rebate schemes in Spain whose ceiling for deductions, once 50% of a film’s production cost, is now rising to 60%.

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