Video-on-demand platforms have gradually taken on a huge importance when it comes to broadcasting audio-visual or cinematographic content.
In particular, SVOD (video on demand by subscription) knows a major growth and represents almost 80% of the video on demand market over the period from January to September 2019. The penetrating power of SVOD has doubled in 3 years, and more than half of 13-34 year-olds without children under 13, report a use of a VoD service in the past 12 months. In general, SVOD appeals to a young audience. This penetrating power is also apparent in the sales revenues, and the SVOD market increased by 82.7% in value in 2018, with an amount of € 455.0 million. The forecast for 2019 is a further significant increase with sales revenue amounting to € 802 million.
Netflix and Amazon prime are the main platforms on the market (65.5% and 21.4% in October 2019) but there are also platforms installed in France such as Orange (17.3%) My Tf1 VOD (14.9% ) or Canal + platforms (Series and VOD 12.9 and 12.1%).
The growth of the platforms also reflects in terms of production and in 2019 the SVOD platforms invested more than € 50 million in original French creations. Investments are estimated at nearly € 100 million in 2020.
On this matter, the launch of Salto, a platform bringing together France Televisions, TF1 and M6 , is expected in the first quarter of 2020 with an announced investment of 50 M euros . This platform will not be able to broadcast more than 40% of its hourly volume in audio-visual contents acquired exclusively from its parent companies, in order to ensure program acquisitions from producers.
Netflix and Amazon prime video platforms also engage in productions and acquisitions in France.
Examples of French productions are not lacking in the Netflix offer, whether series such as Family Business, The hookup plan, Osmosis (adapted from a web series by Arte) or Marianne or documentary or fiction feature films : « To each, Her own », « Street Flow »etc.
We can note that between 2016 and 2020, the investments of platforms mainly focus on series (74%) but also include films (9%), documentaries (3%) and animation (13%).
Beyond their own will, platforms will be forced from a regulatory point of view to invest in French and European content. Online platforms should soon be obliged to participate in the financing of creation, in the same way as TV channels, according to the audio-visual law planned for beginning 2020, and constraint to invest at least 16% of their sales revenue in France in production of French and European contents in compliance with the audiovisual media services directive. Similarly, platforms will have to broadcast at least 30% of European works (funded by them or purchased from other actors).
In addition, still in order to encourage investment, SVOD platforms are subject to different regimes relative to the French chronology of the media, depending among other things whether or not they invest in French and European production. Thus, an operator can benefit from closer viewing windows (30 or 17 months after a movie is released in theaters) if there is an agreement with professional cinema organizations and if certain commitments are respected (funding for French creation and European, compliance with tax rules, diversity of investments, etc.). Such windowing regulation should evolve again in 2020, as french ministry urged the professionals to review again the agreement in prevision of the new audiovisual law.
In view of the above, it therefore appears interesting for French producers to consider SVOD platforms, both as broadcaster, but also as production partners for their projects. Thus, it must be considered that the contractual conditions are so far contradictory with the ancient economy of production based on valuing of catalogues, especially in case of pre-financing. In this context, resort to a specialized law firm is highly recommended in order to negotiate to the best level possible the specific deals with SVOD platforms.