Olivier Courson, Ex-Studiocanal, Named as Senior Cultural Advisor to French Government

Olivier Courson
Copyright: Daniel Bardou

Olivier Courson, the former chairman-CEO of Studiocanal, has been appointed as a senior advisor to the French government on culture, communications and digital regulation.

Courson will advise and, if necessary, arbitrate between ministries on a large portfolio of issues crucial to the future of film and TV in France. He reports to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who is responsible for implementing the vision set out by newly elected President Emmanuel Macron.

Courson’s position will give him a say in some of the huge issues that the French government is expected to tackle, led by France’s expansion in the digital domain, a priority for Macron.

The newly appointed culture minister, Françoise Nyssen, has confirmed that she will lead the debate on the challenge posed by Netflix and other digital platforms to France’s hallowed release-window chronology. That issue was thrown into the limelight at the Cannes Film Festival by its selection of two Netflix movies which may never see a theatrical release in France. In France, the timing of release windows is set by law, not just by industry tradition and practice.

Mounir Mahjoubi, a French-Moroccan digital communications expert who previously headed France’s National Digital Council, has been named the government’s minister for digital affairs.

Courson’s job will be to build consensus among the various ministries and government bodies that deal with issues such as competition between digital platforms and other players. Macron is also bidding to develop a European rival to Netflix, which would need coordination at a pan-European level and a strengthening of action against piracy sites.

Courson’s appointment comes after he has spent nearly two years building up his own production company, Ocema Media. Its titles included Jose Padilha’s “Entebbe,” now in post-production and produced by Participant Media and Working Title, as well as a bevy of high-end TV series.

Courson is an alumnus of France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration, France’s elite training college for government service. He also has 15 years of top-level experience in the private sector as general counsel to pay-TV operator Canal Plus Group and as chairman-CEO of Studiocanal. At both companies, he showed strategic ambition in buying up production-distribution operations in the U.K., Germany and Australia, focusing on such under-served production lines as family entertainment, and moving into TV fiction production with the purchase of Germany’s Tandem in late 2011.

Crucially, under Courson, Studiocanal consolidated production partnerships with some of Europe and the U.S.’ key players – Working Title, David Heyman, Aardman Animations, The Picture Company, Jaume Collet-Serra. Courson left Studiocanal in October 2015 after eight years as chairman-CEO.

He is also no stranger to politics, having served in Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s government in 2001-02. But pleasing everyone in the French film industry on such a divisive issue as release windows will be a tall order. SVOD distributors and advocates of greater digital distribution chafe against rules that ban the release of movie titles on their services until 36 months after their theatrical bow.