"When you have to wait three years to broadcast a film on SVOD, there’s no way you’re going to pre-purchase it"
Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
Bruno Delecour • CEO, Filmo TV
Bruno Delecour, CEO of French firm and Wild Bunch subsidiary Filmo TV, insists upon the relevance of his platform focused entirely on film and offers his analysis of market trends
A pioneer in France when it comes to subscription-based video on demand, Wild Bunch subsidiary Filmo TV now boasts 200,000 subscribers and offers unlimited access to upwards of 750 films. Whatsmore, the outfit has recently signed agreements with all the larger French studios (Pathé, Gaumont, StudioCanal), not to mention American studios such as Paramount and Warner. Bruno Delecour, the company's CEO, insists upon the relevance of his platform focused entirely on film and offers his analysis of market trends.
Cineuropa: What impact has the lockdown imposed in France on 17 March had on Filmo TV’s traffic?
Bruno Delecour: We’ve recorded a two-to-threefold increase in traffic, subscriptions and film viewings. And as French people confined at home are telling themselves they’re going to consume lots of videos, the impact is greater on the subscription side given the appealing, unlimited package we offer. We’re noticing, moreover, that there’s a strong family element involved in these numbers: children’s films and mainstream family films are the favoured options.
What is Filmo TV’s editorial line?
It’s a service that’s entirely film-based, but we’re talking all types of films, covering all the big genres: popular-family films, classic films, arthouse films, genre films (especially of the horror variety) and films for young people. French, European, American, Asian: all the major instances of world cinema are represented. Our strength is a very sharp editorial approach: all our films are presented to us by journalists, specialists, artists, directors in particular, who come and talk to us about themes which we’re developing around a particular subject, country or artist.
Netflix’s arrival in France troubled you somewhat at the time, but now you believe it’s had a positive, knock-on effect...
It’s still having this effect. At the time, there was a mismatch between viewers’ consumption tendencies, which were increasingly on demand, and a rather hesitant mainstream press, which only ever talked about traditional services, linear TV channels. We had real issues gaining visibility in media communications. Netflix’s launch brought a sudden breath of fresh air which created curiosity, a desire for payable, on demand services. It was covered extensively by all the media; it helped grow the market considerably and we made the most of it, given the originality of our positioning. Most of the big, Anglo-Saxon services tend to revolve around series, rather heavily formatted American series in particular, whereas we only deal in films: films which are slightly more qualitative and far more diverse. We know that in the US or in countries where subscription-based services are widespread, users by and large subscribe to a number of services. So we’re the ideal accessory to this type of service, and, as a result, we’ve enjoyed uninterrupted growth since the launch of the big American services.
Besides the extraordinary circumstances that we’re currently contending with, have you also found your growth hampered by media chronology rules in France?
The might of traditional broadcasters in France has, in part, blocked the development of regulation, to the detriment of on demand services and their growth. There has never been a level, technological playing field: the traditional services offered by TV channels still enjoy greater advantages than on demand services, even though the services they offer can be more or less comparable. Traditional services fare better in terms of media chronology, VAT, etc. Unfortunately, professionals and the public authorities have always preferred to maintain the status quo, forgetting that we’re now dealing with the next generation of viewers.
When we look around us, especially in the US, there is a certain media chronology in place, but there’s also a lot more pragmatism. They release a certain number of films in cinemas, at the same time as releasing them on VOD, for example, or films are released in cinemas and then on an SVOD service two to three weeks later. It’s not necessarily the case for all films, but there’s greater flexibility, whereas in France it’s an incredibly rigid system.
In the current extraordinary context, with a view to avoiding overcrowding in cinemas when things get back to normal, a certain number of producers and distributors are looking to release their films directly on VOD. As long as there are good communications surrounding a film’s release, it can enjoy the same lease of life as if it had been released in cinemas. Certain trials to this effect have proved altogether satisfactory, and the films in question enjoyed the same life on pay TV and free channels that they would have had if they’d been released in cinemas. These are facts that really bear thinking about, and, as regards the syndicate of VOD publishers in France, we’ve passed our message on to professionals and the public authorities: for all those films which can no longer enjoy a cinema release, we’re prepared not only to release them online, but also to promote them, to give them such a life that VOD releases are no longer seen as detrimental.
What about pre-financing of films? American platforms can take this route thanks to their global subscriber volumes and their colossal financial resources. But when it comes to on demand services in France, we often hear producers say that VOD and SVOD distribution isn’t cost effective.
We need to look at what’s happening with consumers. They’ve made their choice: today, on a massive scale, people watch content on demand. It’s a fact, there’s nothing we can do about it. So, we have to adapt. And there’s no reason why on demand services can’t generate turnovers similar to those enjoyed by previous services. But we also have to tempt people to buy films, which will then find an audience within a reasonable media window. When you have to wait three years to broadcast a film in SVOD, there’s no way you’re going to pre-purchase it: you’d have to do it four years in advance and no-one knows where we’re going to be in four years’ time. If we set such rigid constraints, the actors in question will clearly struggle to pre-finance films, so we have to introduce a degree of flexibility.
In France, protection of movie theatres remains a very powerful totem.
There’s a powerful lobby in favour of cinemas. I understand that we all have our own activities and perimeters to defend, but we need to pick our battles. When it comes to films with a short cinema lifespan which are likely to be forgotten by viewers fairly quickly, preventing their rapid availability on other media obliterates their funding and exploitation chances. If cinemas want to continue showing films which attract large audiences, we need to allow more fragile films to pass through the various media channels more rapidly.
(Translated from French)
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