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Reed Hastings on Netflix-Cannes Spat: ‘Sometimes We Make Mistakes’

Adopting a more conciliatory tone, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Thursday that the streaming giant’s spat with the Cannes Film Festival had escalated beyond what the company intended and acknowledged that “sometimes we make mistakes.”

“I know we have a reputation as a disruptor,” Hastings said in Lille, northern France, during an onstage session at the Series Mania festival. “Sometimes we make mistakes. We got into a bigger situation with Cannes than we meant to.”

Hastings said that Cannes, which has banned from competition any film not destined for theatrical release in France, was “very sincere at finding a model that works for them and us.” He added: “We love Cannes. We’ve been many years and have buyers going this year.”

Hastings’ more emollient tone came just a few weeks after Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s content chief, blasted Cannes for its new rule on competition films. Sarandos told Variety that the festival had “chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema….We are choosing to be about the future of cinema. If Cannes is choosing to be stuck in the history of cinema, that’s fine.”

Hastings said Thursday that, at least in France, Netflix would “focus now on series. Standup, docuseries – there is so much we can do without being a disruptor on the movie side.”

France has one of the strictest windowing schedules in the world, including a mandatory 36-month wait between a film’s theatrical release and its SVOD play. Hastings declined to criticize the rule. “It’s up to them to decide how to organize. We have no problem with the chronology, and it’s been successful for the French film industry.”

The Netflix boss  acknowledged the challenge posed by a looming new European Union quota demanding that 30% of content on OTT platforms in the region be European. That threshold is “a little tough” for Netflix to meet at the moment, Hastings said. “But we have three years. We’re building rapidly towards that.”

He added: “We need to figure out how to work within the systems….Regulation is critical to order. There is great regulation that is very useful. It’s up to us in every country to participate and follow those regulations.”

Asked about rumors that Netflix might try to acquire Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, Hastings left the door open, saying: “We do love Luc Besson, but I can’t comment on that.”

Hastings’ remarks came two-and-a-half weeks after he announced a slew of new European original series and promised to invest more than $1 billion in local production in Europe this year. Netflix said recently that Spain’s “La Casa de Papel” was the most-watched foreign-language show ever on Netflix.

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