After opting to skip a French theatrical release with its latest animated film “Strange World,” Disney+ is nearing a deal with French TV groups over their respective windows.
Disney+ had decided to stream “Strange World” directly on its service in France to protest the country’s strict windowing rules, which only apply to films first shown in theaters. In France, windowing is not a contractual issue as in most other countries; it’s regulated by a decree that sets exclusive windows for each distribution platform, kicking off with theaters, then pay-TV and transactional VOD and free-to-air channels, as well as SVOD.
Guidelines in early 2022 set the window for subscription-based services like Disney+ at 17 months following French theatrical release. They are less restrictive than the previous window, which required consumers to wait a lengthy three years after the theatrical rollout. But streamers say it’s not enough of a concession, since the new guidelines only apply to films produced in-house or by subsidiaries in the case of Disney with Disney/Pixar and Marvel movies, and Amazon with MGM titles such as James Bond movies.
Disney’s protest was sparked by the French requirement that streaming services temporarily pull their own movies from their platforms five months after streaming begins so that free-to-air channels, such as TF1, France Televisions and M6, can have their own exclusive window which starts 22 months after a film comes out in cinemas and lasts 14 months.
An amendment to the windowing rules is currently being negotiated for movies produced in-house by streaming services that are budgeted above $25 million. If approved by all parties, the change will allow services such as Disney+ and Amazon to extend the length of their SVOD window by two months, up to 22 months after the release in cinemas. In addition, instead of having to pull these films from their services during the entire free-to-air channel windows, platforms will only be required to withdraw them for 60 days from the first day of airing on free-to-air channels.
“We’ve almost reached a compromise with these services, but we’re making the biggest effort,” said a source close to one of France’s free-to-air TV groups.
All other parties such as pay TV group Canal+ would need to sign off on the new amendment.
The Vivendi-owned banner, which has committed $680 million investment in local films through 2024 to benefit from access to fresh films six months after their release, has already protested against the prospect of such changes being made to the current rules.
As far as other windowing rules, these are expected to remain in place for at least another year, though Netflix has been hoping changes in early 2023. Netflix, which invests approximately $40 million in movies — much more than other platforms — still has to wait 15 months in France to stream movies that are distributed in theaters. Several key meetings will be held in January to discuss these hot-button windowing issues.