Canal+ sends a shiver down the French film industry's spine
by Fabien Lemercier
- The loss of the broadcasting rights for the football Ligue 1 for 2020-2024 means that an ominous shadow is looming over the funding of French films
"An earthquake." With one tweet last night, Mathieu Debusschère, general delegate of the ARP (Civil Society of Writers-Directors-Producers), summed up the sheer strength of the shock wave caused in the French film industry by the Canal+ group’s announcement that it had lost the broadcasting rights for the football Ligue 1 for the period 2020-2024 (which have mainly wound up in the pocket of Spanish group Mediapro – a company that has been under the auspices of a Chinese fund since February – and have reached a record total amount of €1.15 billion, as against the €762 million raked in by the previous invitation to tender).
Indeed, Canal+ is the primary source of funding for French films, with €116.5 million worth of pre-purchases made in 2017 for 112 features. However, this volume of acquisitions, which is automatically linked to its turnover and therefore to its number of subscribers (which stood at 8.01 million as of the end of March 2018), was already scaled back considerably last year, with a fall of €35 million in the amount invested in French and European films (€25 million of which in films originally in the French language). The loss of the football rights, one of the main incentives for attracting new subscribers, from the end of June 2020 looks likely to intensify this trend, even if Canal+ intends to refocus its model on film and series, and reallocate money that has so far been spent on football to these specific areas.
For the record, Canal+ has to earmark at least 12.5% of its annual turnover for pre-purchases (a minimum of 85% of the total amount) and purchases of European and French movies, 9.5% of which for features originally in the French language. Interestingly, 17% of the total must be earmarked for films with a budget of under €4 million.
This football-related bombshell, which still needs some clarification before it enters into force in 2020 (in particular, the rights to Italy’s Serie A granted to Mediapro have just been rescinded in the absence of the provision of any financial guarantees, and a decision has been made in France opening up the possibility of licences), is nevertheless already casting a particularly unsettling shadow over the French funding model for French films, which certain people have not been averse to pointing out – people such as Vincent Maraval (Wild Bunch), who tweeted last night: "French film, which has surrendered itself body and soul to Canal+ and has forgotten to reinvent itself (private funding, media timeline), is on the verge of collapsing. What a jolly bunch of visionaries!" It's a harsh kneejerk reaction that is fairly typical of his personality, but which shows only too well that Canal+’s bolt from the blue will spark some extremely heated debates in the French film industry and will undoubtedly soon lead to some profound changes in the landscape. Watch this space…
(Translated from French)
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