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INDUSTRY / MARKET Poland

Creative Europe Desk Poland looks into the diversity of the European VoD market

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- A one-day online conference focused on the current trends and challenges faced by the European industry

Creative Europe Desk Poland looks into the diversity of the European VoD market
Some of the panellists

A special international online conference dedicated to the European VoD platforms market was organised by Creative Europe Desk Poland on 27 October, aiming to follow the new trends and the diversity of the industry. The day opened with the head of the Desk, Małgorzata Kiełkiewicz, introducing the main aspects of the VoD market and of its current evolution. The event was moderated by Marzena Cieślik, officer and programme manager of the MEDIA sub-programme.

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The first guest of the conference was Christian Grece, European television and on-demand audiovisual markets analyst for the European Audiovisual Observatory, who presented reports on the integration of VoD platforms into the European market, with a special focus on the past months. Regarding the Polish market, Grece mentioned that the services offered by local TV providers still hold a big share, leaving more space for big players to expand in the future. Afterwards, Magdalena Dźbik, policy officer for audiovisual industry and MEDIA support Programmes at DG CONNECT of the European Commission, presented the schemes of support for providers and the way MEDIA has been involved both in generalising European content through production — with ARTE being one of the main collaborators — and through promoting film content by supporting VoD platforms such as MUBI or picl, among others.

The first panel, “Together or apart – international cooperation and cross-border activities of platforms”, was moderated by Cineuropa’s Marta Bałaga, and featured guests across the whole spectrum of the European market. Agustina Lumi presented EUROVOD PRO, the professional B2B platform, whose Beta version launched last week. There, professionals can create their own business profiles and find all the relevant information about potential partners. The other new tool for professionals is the EUROVOD reports of the independent sector, featuring more insightful analyses, including information about COVID19 and about the challenges facing platforms. According to Lumi, the platform aims to become a hub, a virtual place that could be an evolution of physical meetings.

For Lumi, the keywords are collaboration, cooperation and partnership. This sentiment was shared by Michael Gubbins, analyst, journalist and consultant, who also worked on the EUROVOD reports. He added that VoD was not only one thing, that there are in fact different flavours of it, while the most important factor remains demand and the way platforms can reach audiences — a problem which already existed before the pandemic. The sector needs to focus on diversity, dynamism and sustainability, as diverse content and ideas can reach the widest possible audiences. Gubbins underlined that the mission of VoD was to connect a diversity of ideas to a diversity of audiences, and that this would involve and change exhibition and distribution. Moreover, he added that a discussion on the survival of the sector should address the need to create a more collaborative environment in Europe, one that would help more players work with each other.

Marc Putman, owner and CEO of OUTtv, is currently developing the Unified eXchange Platform (UXP), a project linking European VoD services. As the European market is small and fragmented, the majority of platforms are struggling to both attract and then retain their customers. Through UXP, which can be used as “the WordPress for VoD usage”, platforms can be developed technically in a standardised environment. The goal is to create a framework, using a series of different modules, which would allow platforms to redefine what is a technical exchange platform, what it should look like and how it could be practically used. These modules, which are still in development, can be used by already participating platforms and by non-participants.

Regarding the diversity of local content, Saša Stanišić, independent producer, director and founder of the Skopje-based VoD platform Cinesquare, stressed the importance for the small Macedonian company to cover a far wider territory than its national region, as the platform reaches the countries of Southeastern Europe. The content is culturally diverse, but shared grounds help collaborations with local partners to promote the films on the platform. Cinesquare is also a member of EUROVOD and it is not competing with Netflix, as it is addressed to a different audience looking for content that otherwise wouldn’t be available to be watched legally. The important factor is the exclusivity of the content, which attracts more viewers.

Regarding audience needs, Gubbins added that providers should go towards what the audience is looking for and understand how it behaves. The “accidental” success of Netflix is not a case study to be followed by European VoD, and despite the fact that the American platform invests in local content, which has already proved to attract more local audiences, the threat for European producers to lose their independence if they rely on these investments remains. “We need to get good in Europe at cooperation and collaboration”, he added, mentioning that distributors need to think like publishers and citing the recent Europa Distribution panel at MIA (read the news). Gubbins argued that the linear value chain needed to be broken down and that it should be made so that producers at early stages are listening to the audience’s needs. Lumi added that another important idea was to add options, instead of simply defend diversity as a slogan, because this is what the audience demands.

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