With US streamers still driving local market growth, continental European TV producers are juggling the Hollywood studio business model, whereby Netflix and the like get all the rights in exchange for the full funding plus a fee, and the preexisting European model based on co-productions that leave independent producers with a backend and give them more creative control.
But that is beginning to change.
Thanks to the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive, currently in various stages of implementation across Europe, there are early signs that the giant platforms are slowly opening up to loosely structured deals. Or, at least, that is the hope for the future.
In essence, the directive simply states that streamers must offer a 30% share of European content to European subscribers. But on top of that, EU countries are introducing country-specific legislation for streamers to directly reinvest a percentage of their revenue in each European country where they operate. And some countries, like France and Italy, are in the process of signing new rules into law that will also bind Netflix, Amazon-PrimeDisney Plus and other streaming services to invest locally through independent producers and ensure producers retain a portion of the rights.
“First of all, we welcome all investments from streamers in all countries in Europe,” says Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the executive board of German powerhouse Constantin Film. He points out that platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus “are already spending a lot of money across Europe in the local language.” [content] and also in international shows in English”.
A recent report by London-based Enders Analysis says that many European producers “have prioritized streaming platforms when pitching their best projects”. It also notes that Netflix is considered the biggest commissioner of European scripted content in 2020, ahead of the major public broadcasters in the EU, and that Disney now has 60 European skeins in preparation for delivery in 2024.
But while Moszkowicz welcomes streaming giants as investors, he says their business model is “ridiculous.”
“No rights are withheld; there is no advantage,” he notes. “There is nothing that we, and also the artists, the creative people that we employ, participate in the billions and billions of dollars of success that streamers have.”
Moszkowicz says that German producers “will use AVMS as much as we can to get a bigger piece of the pie” and believes that “we’ll eventually get there.”
Here’s a look at where things stand in the showdown between the streaming giants and producers in mainland Europe’s four main territories.
France, where the government recently approved the AVMS regulation, is leading the way.
Under the new rules, two-thirds of broadcasters’ investment must go into deals for independent productions in which the rights will revert to French producers after 36 months.
That means a third of streamers’ investments will still go into deals for shows with French producers under flat-rate deals that won’t let them keep the rights instead.
But while this represents historic regulation, the new rules raise questions about how these investment obligations will apply and to whom.
The rules create competition among French producers to be included in the “two-thirds of the investment” corridor, says French producer Alexandra Lebret, director general of the European Producers Club lobby group.
“How will streamers select which producers will get to keep the rights and who won’t?” she asks.
In early March, Netflix announced more than €200 million ($220 million) in investments in France as it unveiled its 2022 slate of 25 French originals, 10 of which are TV series.
These include “Standing-Up,” about France’s stand-up comedy scene, directed by “Call My Agent” creator Fanny Herrero.
Lebret notes that it is not yet known how Netflix will select the projects that will benefit from the new rules, noting that Netflix’s biggest French original, “Lupin,” currently shooting its third season, is still being made under a fee agreement. flat. .
In Germany, where the Audiovisual Media Services Directive regulation is expected to come into force soon, there has been sporadic flexibility on the part of streamers in structuring deals for top-tier productions.
“The more interesting the property, the better your chances of ending up with it.” [structuring a deal where rights revert]Moszkowicz says.
An example of this is Constantin’s series “We Children From Bahnhof Zoo”, which aired on Amazon Prime Video in Germany.
It was also mounted as a co-production with various partners, including Cattleya, owned by ITV in Italy, with Fremantle handling international sales.
Constantin is now editing the high-profile TV series “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” based on Peter Hoeg’s thriller, for which Moszkowicz is confident he can put together a co-production that combines broadcast partners and other types of broadcasters.
Moszkowicz also stresses that when it comes to launching big-budget projects, Europe’s state broadcasters and pay-TV players still represent a viable alternative to streamers.
Last year, Constantin and veteran German television executive Herbert Kloiber joined forces to form a team called High End Prods. to produce event-based programs made specifically for the European free and pay TV market.
Moszkowicz points out that the combined resources of public broadcasters, such as Germany’s ARD and ZDF, France’s TFI, Italy’s RAI, and the UK’s BBC, are far greater than the budget of any of the broadcasters.
“It’s practically billions every year and they don’t get enough product, obviously because a lot of the really cool stuff is bought all over the world from streamers,” he says.
High End will soon announce its first slate.
In Spain, despite the fact that AVMS has not been fully implemented, there is a feeling that streamers are giving up their dictation of all rights.
“I think at first they tried to divide and conquer,” says producer-director Álvaro Longoria, who runs the Spanish independent film Morena Films.
But now many other players have entered, including Disney, Apple and Paramount.
“Many of them realize that they have to be flexible if they want to get the best talent,” he adds.
Longoria, whose Christmas comedy feature film “Reyes vs. Santa” has been acquired by Amazon for some territories, adds that he finds it symbolically significant that Netflix is taking on “Parallel Mothers”, the latest film by Pedro Almodóvar, who as president of the Cannes jury in 2017 he hit the serpentine.
Netflix has just acquired the exclusive rights for Latin America of “Madres Paralelas”.
“The whole business model is changing all the time and streamers are the first ones who are happy to adapt,” he says.
In Italy, where AVMS implementation still languishes, there are small but significant signs that streamers are starting to give up.
“Some dynamics with the platforms are changing,” says Rosario Rinaldo, director of the production company Cross Prods., owned by Germany’s Beta Film.
Cross is producing the Amazon Italy original drama “Prisma,” for which he will hold the SVOD rights in perpetuity.
Rinaldo will be able to sell the free television rights to “Prisma” worldwide after the show plays exclusively on Amazon globally for a set period.
“There is more attention paid to the needs of producers during development,” says Rosario, citing the willingness of Netflix and Disney to develop projects together with Cross.
The leading example in the Italian market of a major American actor willing to commit to Europe’s co-production model is HBO and broadcaster RAI’s “My Brilliant Friend,” the series based on Elena Ferrante’s novels.
In early February, the third installment in the series, “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” premiered on RAI to stellar ratings before launching in the United States on HBO and HBO Max.
“As a producer, finding ways to collaborate across various types of platforms and other broadcasters, including public broadcasters, is clearly part of what I’m looking for,” says “My Brilliant Friend” producer Lorenzo Mieli.
Recently, Mieli, through her Fremantle-owned shingle Apartment, has been able to mount a three-way co-production between RAI, Franco-German network Arte and Netflix.
They are making veteran author Marco Bellocchio’s upcoming TV series, “Eastern Notte,” about the kidnapping and murder of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by Red Brigade terrorists.
“The possibility for business models to evolve, and disrupt monolithic models, stems from our ability as producers to come up with projects that make this disruption worthwhile,” he says.