There was a good European Audiovisual Observatory panel as part of the Cannes Festival held online. The programme can be seen here.
Short version of this post:
- The idea that streaming + pandemic changes to behaviour is too simplistic – there’s a lot in play (TV v Cinema v Mobile) and arthouse cinemas are actually doing OK
- However, streaming content is, indeed, booming – not just due to huge investment from SVoD producers, but also to more co-production between these companies and traditional commissioners.
- There are big concerns about the increased level of commissioning where commissioners keep the IP against deficit financed productions that allow producers to retain more IP. This may damage the incentives that have served the EU and the UK very well.
We had a statistical presentation from Gilles Fontaine. His figures were, by his own admission, very skewed by them being French-only but there is still a discernable shift (masked by lots of Covid factors) not only towards TV but towards higher per-hour budgets. The panel had observations about feature film producers are moving into TV series production.
However, it’s a much more complicated picture than that. A weekend in early July 2021 was the biggest box-office weekend since the start of the pandemic, and Neil Peplow of the BFI was relatively optimistic about theatrical releases retaining some important role in the economy of films. He made the point that we have seen plenty of apocalyptic predictions before with the evolution of DVD, BlueRay, etc.
People still like sitting in a big dark room and watching films together. Neil particularly cited ‘Blue Stories’ a UK film about gang culture that slightly re-cast the role of the local cinema in the UK.
Gudny Mummelvoll (CEO, Hummelfilm, & President, EPC) broadly agreed though she raised concerns about the future of funding.
Greg Polad of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) said that there’s a gathering momentum towards more cross-broadcaster co-production deals.
Christian Bräuer, President, CICAE said that he is relatively optimistic about continued theatrical releases – he made the point that 2019 was actually a good year, particularly for arthouse cinema.
In his view there is a future of fruitful co-existence between streamers and cinema.
Guy Polad added that the pandemic had also seen a fall in the watching of mobile content and audiences had consolidated a lot of their viewing around streaming content. So, the question may not just be ‘cinema to sofa’ but also ‘mobile to sofa’ (which, from the production point of view, a good thing, surely?).
There were concerns about the changing way that productions are funded (a move away from deficit finance, which allows producers to retain some IP and towards commissioned production in which the commissioner retains the IP) means that producers are losing control of IP – and this may have big consequences for the long-term sustainability of the production sector.
It’s a shift in the reward structures significantly in favour of big consolidated media companies.
There were concerns about the way that writing and production talent is tide up into exclusivity or ‘first look’ deals. Neil Peplow also mentioned that cinemas and streamers have benefitted from where the UK’s independent companies have always been strong it’s been good for the development of talent. Neil also mentioned, in passing, that ‘production inflation’ – the increasing cost of production crew – is a factor.
Finally, as bombshell, some US research has suggested that we are about to see a huge collapse in the production sector….