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Alain Rocca • President of UniversCiné

VoD: "If access providers played the game, it would be a huge success"

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Alain Rocca  • President of UniversCiné

The president of VoD platform UniversCiné offered Cineuropa an incisive analysis of the VoD (Video on Demand) market in France. Bringing together around 50 independent French producers and distributors, the website offers 1,000 titles from the best of European cinema.

Cineuropa: What is your analysis of the current development of VoD in France?
Alain Rocca: If access providers played the game, it would be a huge success. 90% of the market is monopolised by the VoD offers from three access providers (Orange, Free and Neuf). Orange accounts for half of this figure and doesn’t want to develop an ample selection of VoDs. The sector is moving nonetheless, with a growth rate of 50%, but this could be a lot higher if access providers adopted a neutral as opposed to vertical approach.
For example, Orange subscribers are only offered 25 out of the 1,000 titles in the UniversCiné catalogue. Applying vertical models of content copyright to cinematic works, which are by definition transverse content, is stupid! In the movie theatre context, it’s like UGC, for example, only agreeing to show the films it distributes. Rights-holders will give us permission to exhibit their film on a new medium provided that this exhibition really takes place. If it’s held up, they prefer to wait.

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Can independents compete with the VoD platforms run by major audiovisual and film companies?
Canal Play for example is in the same position as us: this summer, they had 220 films removed by Orange. The only difference is that the major groups have business plans that enable them to undertake more extensive development phases. Together, the VoD platforms for cinematic works (there are around 40) account for only 10% of the market. The remaining 90% belongs to Orange, Free and Neuf, who offer very few films.
Then it becomes a case of the cat biting its own tail: they say that it doesn’t attract many new subscribers, so they’re not going to expand the range of films on offer. The consumption model they use is that of mainstream video; but what they don’t understand is that you can make a much deeper impact with the Internet, which is impossible with mainstream videos in shops. As soon as you make a gesture aimed at Internet users, this is immediately reflected in consumption curves.

Do you think the anti-piracy law is a decisive step forward?
Yes, but if there is no improvement in the range of legally-available films, we won’t be able to prevent Internet users from trying all means possible to find something that isn’t even offered to them legally. I’m nonetheless optimistic because network monopolies have never lasted in the past in the face of consumer demand and the determination of content producers to ensure their films reach their consumers.

How quickly will VoD be able to take root in France?
In 2007, we reached 1m film viewings on all of France’s IPTV networks and platforms. In 2008, the figure was 6m and, in 2009, it will rise to 25m. I think that the market for film VoD can reach 100m viewings per year.
What we’re trying to find out in France is whether we’ll succeed in creating a separate film strand within the VoD sector, which would make it possible to monetise cinematic film without destroying the major monetisation methods already in existence (movie theatres, video, TV), by increasing channels of distribution without it negatively affecting the others. This is a fascinating question to which we’ll have a definitive answer in four or five years.

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