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Digital Single Market will offer more choice, says EU Commissioner

Huw Jones reports on the European Commission’s Berlinale Conference “Innovating European Film Business Models: Thinking Outside the National Box”, held at the Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, February 9, 2015

The formation of a Digital Single Market will offer European consumers more choice, EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger told film industry professionals during a visit to the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.

Günther H. Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society

Günther H. Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society

In a keynote address at the Creative Europe MEDIA day, the EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society said removing national borders and restrictions between member states to allow the free flow of online services and entertainment would boost the circulation of European films within the EU.

“I want more choice for consumers. They should also benefit from the advantages of digitisation and be able to shop for more films across-borders,” he told the assembled gathering of 700 industry professionals from across Europe.

The formation of a Digital Single Market was billed as an opportunity for filmmakers to reach a wider market. It would also allow European consumers to access VoD content in other member states, so ending the situation where the vast majority of hit films on platforms like iTunes are not available in the whole EU, but only in a certain number of country stores.

However, the Commissioner’s speech – in which he also announced the launch of a European Film Forum as a platform for industry discussion and exchange – was greeted with skepticism by some film executives.

Constantin Film CEO Martin Moszkowicz said the EU film policy could damage European cinema through eroding its diversity.

Speaking as part of a panel of industry experts, Moszkowicz said producers faced no real barriers in terms of selling their films across Europe. The problem, he argued, was simply that there is little demand for films from other European countries.

“It’s not that we are trying to make movies which work all over the world. These movies don’t travel because nobody wants to see them, and not because there are bureaucratic borders that don’t allow them to travel,” he said.

Constantin Films recently ran an experiment to gauge demand for its German language movies in the rest of Europe. Six films were made freely available to consumers across Europe via the BitTorrent platform, yet according to Moszkowicz the results were “disastrous… we’re talking about a couple of thousand for a market of 350 million people”.

He also expressed concern that removing the territorial boundaries between EU members states would make it harder for European producers to fund their films, since financing largely comes from selling local distributors the exclusive rights to release their film in a given country.

“Of all the 90 movies that are here at the festival… not one of them would have been made would there not be territorialisation, because they are also co-productions getting funds from various countries. That’s what producers in Europe do.”

Day-and-date releasing

The conference also heard from Madeleine Probst, Cinema Produer at the Watershed in Bristol and President of the Europa Cinema network, who said that audience development was key to increasing demand for European films, comments echoed by fellow panelist Ed Guiney, CEO of Element Pictures and founder of the Volta VoD platform. Probst called for more investment in Europe’s cinema infrastructure and network, arguing this would drive all other parts of the market.

Discussing the issue of day-and-date releasing, the panel agreed that this might be appropriate in the case of some films, but not others. Either way, the decision should lie with the rights holder, Moszkowicz argued, and should not be dictated by Brussels.

The panel also agreed that while the EU’s research into day-and-date releasing such as TIDE experiment had been useful, the results should be shared with the industry.

Other panelists included Antonio Medici, CEO of BIM Distribuzione; Andreas Spechtler, President Dolby International AB; and Andreas Briese, Head of YouTube Entertainment Partnerships in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The discussion was chaired by film consultant David Shear.

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