French Broadcaster Canal+ Gets Shorter Theatrical Window

The French theatrical window is famously long and a matter of law. Changing it simply isn’t an option – unless you’re Canal+, a major financial backer of independent cinema in France.

The Canal+ Group recently announced a new agreement with French regulators that enables its pay-TV service to broadcast theatrical releases from six months after their box office debut.

Typically, French broadcasters must wait at least 10 months. But with declining pay-TV subs in the face of increased competition from over-the-top video platforms, the status quo is changing.

In exchange for the shorter window, Canal+ renewed a commitment to spend more than $200 million annually funding local French film productions through 2023.

The deal also allows Studiocanal, the company’s TV and theatrical unit, for the first time to produce four in-house productions per year—rather than just funding third-party content.

Meanwhile, subscription streaming video services such as Netflix can wait up to three years before gaining access to French theatrical titles – a primary reason why the SVOD pioneer remains engaged in a protracted dispute with the Cannes Film Festival and French exhibitors regarding streaming its original movies concurrent with box office.

While the impasse between Netflix and French exhibitors continues to generate headlines, government officials recognize changing market conditions.

The streaming service, along with Amazon Prime Video and other over-the-top video services, can now stream theatrical titles 15 months after their box office debut, provided they fund local productions – something Netflix and Amazon are doing.

In September, Netflix announced it was producing 14 original series in France in an effort to reach the 30% local content mandate. Netflix reportedly ended the third quarter with about 3.5 million French subscribers.

In February, Amazon announced its first French/German series co-production, a comedy titled, “Deutsch-Les Landes.”

“This is just the beginning for us, as we will keep on bringing the best of French and international TV, including new French Originals, to our customers here,” Jay Marine, VP of Amazon Video EU, said at the time.

 

Canal Plus CEO Blames Netflix, Regulation for Imminent Shuttering of SVOD Service CanalPlay in France

Canal Plus will close its SVOD service CanalPlay, due to waning subscription numbers in the face of competition from global players such as Netflix and Amazon, CEO Maxine Saada said during a hearing with the culture commission of the French senate, according to reports.

First launched in November of 2011, Canal Plus’s CanalPlay beat Netflix’s launch in France by nearly three years, reported Screen International.

CanalPlay at one time had some 800,000 subscribers but numbers have fallen to just 200,000 subscribers following Netflix’s arrival, Saada told the commission, according to reports. He said French regulations preventing CanalPlay from offering Canal Plus’s high-end originals on the service in the early years of its existence had hindered the ability of the service to compete with the global digital players, according to Screen International.

“At the moment when Netflix arrived on French soil, the only French SVOD player at the time was CanalPlay,” he said. “It had 800,000 subscribers, and we were banned from including originals in the face of Netflix and Amazon.”

That ban has since been lifted, but Saada said the change had come too late, Screen International reported.

“It’s over for CanalPlay. In two years, it has been erased from this market which is in the process of replacing that of television,” he told the French legislators.

“The announcement that CanalPlay is to close in France is another reminder of the growing requirement for major content investment to compete in the increasingly dynamic subscription video sector, particularly amongst local services,” stated Futuresource Consulting after the announcement. “CanalPlay will join the list of high profile closures worldwide over the last couple of years, all with significant parent companies; that includes Shomi (Canada), Watchever (Germany) and KPN Play (Netherlands). Futuresource estimates that CanalPlay had approximately 600,000 subscribers at the end of 2017, but has struggled to maintain pace in 2018 as Netflix momentum continues to build. Netflix doubled its subscriber base in France in 2017 hitting 2.5 million, with more subscriber growth expected for 2018.”

“Offering content that is unique, high quality and ideally, exclusive or original” is key, the Futuresource commentary noted.

“Such a strategy does not come cheap though, something that Canal+/Vivendi was seemingly not willing, or able to fund, particularly when its addressable market is more localised than the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime Video,” Futuresource stated.