Streaming services that invest heavily in French movies may be able to access fresh local film releases starting in July.
France’s major film guilds, including BLIC (Bureau of Cinema Industries), BLOC (Bureau of Cinema Organizations) and ARP (Society for Authors, Directors and Producers), have drafted proposals to amend France’s notoriously strict windowing schedule. The guilds on Tuesday submitted proposals to the French government, which has to enact new regulations by July 1 as part of Europe’s groundbreaking Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
The proposals submitted by the film orgs would give a six-month window to pay TV groups, including Canal Plus Group, as well as streaming services that invest at least 75% of their annual revenue in France in films that will premiere in French theaters. Other subscription-based streaming services would access films at 12 months and 15 months, depending on their investments.
Major film guilds, TV groups and streamers had until March 30 to reach an agreement over joint proposals to revise the windowing schedule, but only film guilds managed to deliver proposals in due time. The government is now entitled to make the final call on windowing with a decree.
“French TV groups have been lamenting for years that they were at a disadvantage compared with U.S. streaming services because they had all these obligations of programming, investment and pre-financing that platforms didn’t have; but now that we are trying to put everyone on an even playing field, these TV groups are upset because we are giving these ‘new players’ some incentives and benefits for contributing to our eco-system,” said an industry source.
The shorter windows are intended to be strong incentives for streamers like Netflix, which currently have to wait 36 months after a film comes out in French theaters before landing on the platform.
Suggested changes to the windowing would allow a better position in the windowing schedule for players who have signed an agreement with French guilds and the broadcasting authorities (CSA). Under the agreement, streaming services, like TV groups, would need to invest a minimum of their annual revenues in movies that are released in theaters; be transparent about their number of subscribers and annual turnover in France; pay royalties to authors; pre-finance French and European content; respect clauses of diversity to spread their wealth across a wide range of content; respect a cap on in-house productions; and editorialize their programming to ensure the promotion of local content.
Earlier this year, the Council of State and the CSA pre-approved a decree that requires streamers to invest a minimum of 20% in local film and TV as part of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The directive also requires streamers to allocate at least 30% of their catalogues to local programming.
Netflix has been thriving in France, which ranks as one of the service’s biggest international markets, even with a 36-month window. Its most recent hit has been the Omar Sy-fronted “Lupin,” produced by Gaumont. However, French industry players believe the service will be willing to step up significantly its investment and pre-financing of local content in order to be better positioned in the windowing schedule. Streaming services that won’t sign the agreement with film guilds and the CSA will have a 35-month window.