Broadcast times, investment: platforms and French cinema reach an agreement

The satisfaction is general or almost. After seven months of stormy negotiations, film professionals have agreed on a new media chronology, i.e. on the time between the release of a film in theaters and its broadcast on pay channels and free as well as on the platforms.

Platforms will have to invest in French cinema

This agreement is a logical and necessary continuation of the decree on Smad (audiovisual media services on demand), effective since December 2021. Indeed, platforms established in the European Union, such as Netflix or Amazon, are now required to contribute to the financing of French cinema. Netflix will invest 4% of its turnover in France in the production of French films, or around 40 million euros.

In return for this commitment, the platforms demanded that they no longer have to wait 36 ​​months before being able to broadcast a cinematographic work. The period thus increases to 15 months for Netflix. And 17 months for Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video. The latter two did not sign the agreement reached on January 24, 2022 (Disney considers the new framework unfair) but it will still apply for them, from February 15, 2022, once validated by the State.

The risk was that Canal+, which remains the great financier of French cinema, would feel aggrieved and disengage from the game. “You shouldn’t have lost 50 million Canal to win 40 from Netflix”, summarizes Éric Lagesse, president of Pyramide distribution who defended independent distributors.

The encrypted channel, to remain attractive to its subscribers, has therefore obtained the ability to broadcast the films six months, instead of the current eight, after their theatrical release. In exchange, Canal+ will devote 16% of its turnover to cinema, which will represent 200 million euros each year for three years.

A clause imposed on diversity

Exhibitors can only be pleased to see the hall strengthened as the cornerstone of cinema. Same smile on the side of the producers. The new agreement, underlines Édouard Mauriat, president of the cinema office of the SPI (Union of independent producers), will allow “greater funding for works and more diversity”. This last point is crucial, because the danger would be Conversely that the platforms do not turn “only on the talents of today”, reaping the fruits of the work of others and do not neglect authors who are not well enough known.

“A diversity clause is imposed on Smad, says Édouard Mauriat, the objective being that the films of novice directors with less identified actors are also financed. » Netflix will therefore have to take its share of the risk inherent in any artistic creation and not just stick to showcasing Jane Campion or Paolo Sorrentino, to name only these big names in the seventh art. So let’s wait to see which films will finance Netflix. The Californian company has committed to a minimum of 10 films that will be released in theaters, and this is a first.

Independent cinema has reservations

The directors positively welcomed this new media timeline. However, young filmmakers express, even before this new agreement, a certain concern about their future. Hot topic: the distribution of the sums donated by the platforms (Netflix but also My Canal or France TV replay) between the authors.

” Previously “, explains director Romain Cogitore of the SRF (Society of Film Directors), “We shared the cake in solidarity: a minute of a film broadcast at midnight was worth as much as a minute in prime time, now the new system is based on the number of views. » This leads to the disappearance of a floor income and a risk of impoverishment.

“A pre-purchase on Canal+ ensures minimum royalties allowing you to live for 18 months under minimum wage conditions. » On the other hand, a movie “which would accumulate half a million French views, would allow, depending on the context, to live four months at the minimum wage”. Paradoxically, the more works a platform offers and the more clicks there are, the lower the remuneration per author. Because the size of the cake is unchanged.

“These broadcasting rights are not a rent, insists Romain Cogitore, these are incomes that allow us to work on a new project, without doing too many food jobs, so to create in a free and daring way. » For the SRF filmmakers, signatories of a forum in November 2021without new rules of the game, it is creation that would be threatened in the long term.

The rooms have not found their audience

Distributors are no less worried about their future. Admissions to theaters are struggling to return to their pre-Covid pandemic level. The young public returned but not the 45-65 year olds. “In 2020, notes Éric Lagesse, the theaters lacked films. In 2021, there were too many films and not enough cinemas. Independent films have lost between 30 and 70% of their audience. »

Thus a film which should have registered 100,000 admissions will only have averaged 50,000. However, quality works, to speak only of French creations, are not lacking, as proof, the palme d’or 2021 from Titaniumthe 2021 Golden Lion of the event or the lost illusionsmulti-nominated for the 2022 Césars.

Question that no one can answer today: is this decline cyclical or structural? According to François Aymé, president of the Afcae (French association of arthouse cinemas), “Faced with platforms, cinemas must offer a more attractive social and cultural experience. » This notably involves the architecture of the rooms and the quality speakers to accompany the screenings.

“It has a cost, so if we don’t want to increase the price of the ticket, local communities and public authorities will have to commit beyond the current 10%. » This work on the quality of the offer may also mean, asks François Aymé, “offer fewer daily sessions and no longer open seven days a week”, at least in medium-sized cities. The cinematographic landscape is certainly changing.

New Media Timeline
Once validated by the State, it will come into force in February 2022.
Sale and rental (DVD, Blu-ray, VOD): 4 months.
Canal+: 6 months.
Amazon Prime Video, Disney+: 17 months.
Free channels (TF1, France Télévisions, M6, Arte…): 22 months.

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Broadcast times, investment: platforms and French cinema reach an agreement