In May, the European Parliament voted to almost double the European Union’s entire Creative Europe program up to €2.4 billion ($2.9 billion) over the next five years. It also earmarked $1.69 billion for its Media strand, which will continue to stimulate and nurture Europe’s film, TV and video games industry as it contends with the many challenges of a rapidly changing market.
“The final decision on the budget was taken in the midst of the COVID crisis, which so dramatically affected the financial situation of the audiovisual sector,” says Media chief Lucía Recalde.
The increase is also partly “to assist” the European industry in its recovery. The new program will be “more of an evolution than a revolution,” she says.
Media’s new mandate will strike a balance between recovery and transformation and push boundaries by promoting industry initiatives that contribute to achieving key E.U. goals, such as its ecological Green Deal action plan, as well as inclusiveness and gender balance.
But it will also “encourage even more cooperation between [pan-European] organizations and across the value chain,” to support co-productions and networking, Recalde says.
In particular, Media is keen to spawn more projects from co-development deals between different European territories.
Though details of most of the new grants haven’t been finalized yet, in June, Media launched its first calls for funding proposals.
Grants for European co-development projects and to develop co-production slates were on the top of the list, which also comprised grants to support pan-European VOD platforms that can help boost digital cross-border circulation of E.U. content.
Media is “really aiming to reach a different audience when it comes to circulation of European works,” says European Film Academy president Matthijs Wouter Knol. It is now targeting people who don’t have access to cinemas or to platforms that specifically show European works.
Furthermore, execs would like to ensure that people from underrepresented groups have access to Media money, which “hopefully in the next 10 years will lead to better distribution and better accessibility to the means to make European works for more people.” The three key words that crop up in initial statements and documents about Media’s 2021-’27 mandate are “diversity,” “development” and “digital.” “They’ve been supporting digital initiatives in many ways,” says Looking Forward to Program’s Future sales agent Jenny Walendy of Germany’s the Match Factory.
For distributors, this means new incentives for films to be released by streamers if they can’t go out theatrically and also more support for digital promotion, including virtual market platforms that, after mushrooming during the pandemic, are now gaining ground.
Though Media is pushing digital, Walendy doesn’t sense “an immediate change in what they are demanding from us in terms of how we release films.” There is no threat to support of theatrical, for which “they’ve just started to focus on promotion, which I think is exactly the thing to do.” For its 30th anniversary, Media is launching a social media campaign that aims to “spread the word to Gen Z and millennials that the E.U. is behind the content they love,” according to an internal document. The campaign will also encourage the industry to “embrace collaboration, innovation and technology” as well as ecology and inclusion.
As for more specific innovations, the Media Program “will put more emphasis on helping organizations that want to scale up,” Recalde says, “because we have to fight some excessive fragmentation [too many companies are too small to compete] and reap the benefits of scale that the common market is offering.” In the same spirit of scaling up, Recalde adds that Media is also developing more schemes to support private investment in the European market, and will soon launch an equity investment platform called MediaInvest “where European and private funds can be blended.”