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Conference Report: Promoting cross border circulation

On March 3-4, 2016, the Dutch Presidency of the European Council organised a major industry conference on ‘Promoting the Cross-border Circulation of European Audiovisual Content’ in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Tim Raats and Ilse Schooneknaep report.

With European audio-visual policy at the crossroads of digitisation and globalisation, the need to re-evaluate current regulation and support mechanisms (including Creative Europe, Digital Single Market, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive) were high on the agenda at this major conference on Promoting the Cross-border Circulation of European Audiovisual Content, which featured over 300 policymakers, film producers, media companies and film distributors in attendance.

The event kicked-off with a keynote from one of the biggest players in the digital evolution: Netflix. CEO Reed Hastings highlighted how changes in content production and distribution allowed the successful development of his company over the past decade and he offered some insights in what the future might bring for Netflix and audience viewing habits.

According to Hastings, the Internet will slowly push the older release windows out of the market. Hastings also highlighted the Netflix strategy to collaborate with local European content producers to strengthen the circulation of its European content.

Henk Hagoort of Dutch public broadcaster NPO discussed how the fast changing television market confronts public broadcasters with shifted media use, and the importance of developing multi-platform strategies. Hagoort defended the need for public broadcasters, as they are the biggest investors in original European audio-visual content.

Ready for retirement

Over the course of the two days the audience could listen in on a wide variety of panels discussing the future of European content, European audiences and audio-visual business models. Among the highlights were discussions revolving around the life span of television. Many claimed that TV is ready for its retirement and should only be utilised for those events that need linear broadcasting such as sports and news.

The pressing need for co-production in the creation of European content was also high on the agenda. However, it was argued that regulation should be harmonised if we want our producers to remain strong in co-production. In addition, regulation should also pay more attention to the distribution.

Battle for eyeballs

The pressing need to focus on the audience also emerged. “The Battle for the eyeballs” is stronger than ever, as one panelist put it.

Local content has to compete with the ever growing pile of films and TV drama. Big data and algorithms can bring us the knowledge to ensure the engagement of the public. Many of these tools are already available, but according to the panels, we just need to make better and more use of them.

Digital Single Market

The event concluded with a panel on piracy, copyright and the introduction of the Digital Single Market policy, leading to a heated debate on the adjustment of the European audio-visual business model. Oppositions emerged between content creators, producers, distributors and the consumers.

The panel did agree on the fact that consultation of all stakeholders involved is an absolute necessity. However, players and policymakers both stressed the need to act quickly in this continuously changing market.

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