LYON, France — With U.S. video streaming platforms advancing across Europe and the rest of the world, restorations are a necessity if French film distributors want to ensure a future for their heritage film libraries, Jérôme Soulet, head of video, television and new media at Gaumont, said in his keynote address at the first day of the Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market.
“If you want to sign an agreement with a platform, an HD restoration is necessary, otherwise they won’t do it; it’s non-negotiable,” he added.
Soulet shared his views on the challenges facing heritage film in market increasingly dominated by U.S. SVOD platforms.
Despite a rich film history, France’s heritage market is facing an uncertain future due to the country’s dearth of domestic video streaming services, Soulet said.
Soulet, joined by industry analyst Pascal Lechevallier, presented sobering statistics and warned that French distributors needed to take concrete steps to ensure a digital future for their heritage libraries.
French TV viewing habits have resulted in slow growth of streaming services and likely prevented homegrown platforms from springing up.
Currently, only 45.3% of French households have at least one streaming video service, compared to 52.2% in Germany, 58.9% in the U.K. and a whopping 78.6% in the U.S. Indeed, compared to Germany, the U.K., South Korea, India and the U.S., France has the highest percentage of households with no SVOD service (54.7%).
According to Digital TV Research, only 25% of French TV households will have SVOD by 2022, on par with Switzerland and well above Spain (14.2%), Portugal (18.5%) and Malta (20.1%), but far below the Netherlands (62%), the U.K. (70%), Sweden, Denmark (74.4%) and Norway (76.6%).
Lechevallier warned that the forecast for the French market is not going in the right direction, “which means our heritage films will not be seen unless they are on these streaming channels.”
At the same time, the main players are not European, making it difficult for French heritage films.
“France missed the opportunity to develop an SVOD offering,” Soulet added.
Soulet pointed out that at the moment, global Internet ad spend, at around $200 billion, has surpassed that of television, citing data from Kleiner Perkins and Zenith Media.
Traditional TV broadcasters will be having increasing difficulties justifying the acquisition of heritage films as advertising continues to drop, Lechevallier said, adding that producers and distributors will have to increasingly deal with U.S. players like Netflix and Amazon.
Local distributors have to restore heritage films if they want a viable opportunity at selling them to SVOD platforms, Soulet urged.
This year’s market is also examining the state of heritage cinema in other territories as part of its European Panorama section, including Greece, Hungary and the Baltic countries.
“France already has a strong position in heritage cinema,” said market project manager Gérald Duchaussoy. “We have a lot of companies, we have a lot of laboratories compared to other countries, many DVD and Blu-ray publishers, so the situation is very different from the rest of the world, especially in other parts of Europe.”
The ICFM market has sought to give distributors and DVD publishers from other European countries with medium or low production capacity the opportunity to attend the market and establish connections, Duchaussoy added.
In addition, the market has launched a new addition to its website that will be updated daily with increased media coverage of market events, including videos, live broadcasts and an archive.