European Producers Contend with the Growing Power of U.S. Streamers following production restart since the pandemic lockdown

With European producers looking to restart shoots post lockdown in the coming weeks, many have developed mixed feelings towards the powers Netflix and other streaming services have garnered during the lockdown. 

As a result of the worldwide lockdown, movie theaters were shut down, and movies that were scheduled for theatrical release have had to be pushed back or release via Video on Demand (VOD) services. In truth, the biggest winners of the coronavirus crises are the streaming platforms – Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Primes as the demand for these streaming services skyrocketed. These streaming services all pushed out many original movies and series for people to watch while staying at home.

The stats the streaming services recorded showed just how much people missed going to cinemas to see movies. Netflix now has over 180 million subscribers in 190 countries.

Alongside the giant streaming services, ARTE, Apple, BBC, RAI, and France Televisions all contributed to being the drivers of broadband traffic and massive internet usage during the lockdown. 

While streaming services were able to fill in during the lockdown, there is no doubt that the model with which these streaming platforms create their original movies is changing the movie and TV industry. This is because the business model of these streaming platforms is to fully finance the production of a movie in exchange for the full rights of the movie. This could pose a serious threat to the European industry which is already endangered. 

Speaking about the issue, Norwegian Producer, Gudny Hummelvoll stated that independent producers are in danger when production restarts. She noted that European independent producers have already seen “the predominance of a financing model based on the one the streamers use, where producers don’t have any rights or [get] revenues back” during the lockdown. She also stated that streaming platforms mostly use algorithms to determine which projects they want.

She did agree that the global exposure the platforms provide is a massive opportunity for Euro-producers. However, she believes the cost also needs to be considered since the platforms will not only keep the rights to the film but also decide the content they want the producer to make.

Simone Gattoni, another Italian Producer, also said “These days more than before, directors and producers in Europe are able to seek a wide range of partnerships; there is much more pan-European cross-pollination,”

Italian producers and Head of Cross Productions, Rosario Rinaldo also made suggestions similar to Gattoni’s. He said, “The (streaming) platforms are giving us a truly fantastic opportunity. My only worry is that so far I can’t see a business model that gratifies me, that can work for me the same way as the business model I have with [pubcaster] RAI. That is the damn problem!” He went on to explain that RAI, in his words, “has a culture of real productive exchange.”

He added, “We are co-producers. I invest, taking a risk. But I know that in the end I have the possibility of being able to monetize my rights. Rights that I hold on to.” Rinaldo cites the case of his weed-smoking cop show “Rocco Schiavone,” which plays on Starz in the U.S. and, “besides a minimum guarantee brought in a 90% profit margin in international sales.”

From the thoughts of the many concerned European producers, it is obvious they see streaming platforms and services as a good way to get their works to an even greater audience. However, they do not like the current terms they might have to agree to work with them.

These concerns are quite understandable considering European producers are having a difficult time trying to find insurance coverage before they can start filming again while production financed by Netflix and other streaming services have in-house insurance. 

Due to these concerns, the EPC has started a discussion on setting measures to reduce the power of streaming platforms. The main aim of this discussion is to find a way to ensure global streamers participate in the recovery efforts of the European film and TV industry rather than pump money only into the movies playing on their platforms