San Sebastián discusses the new ways for producers to overcome the fragmentation of the VoD system
- In a talk organised by the European Producers Club, experts wondered how the subscriber crisis, AVoD and co-commissioning will impact today's industry
The San Sebastián International Film Festival has once again been the place for professionals to meet and discuss current topics in the industry. In addition to the talks organised by the newly established Spanish Screenings XXL, which also included a presentation of upcoming Spanish projects (see the report), the festival maintained its traditional round-tables. One of them, organised by the European Producers Club (EPC), put the focus on the much-discussed crisis in the SVoD market and its possible consequences for the industry. In a situation marked by a slow recovery from the theatrical distribution crisis caused by the pandemic and the growing problems that VoD platforms are facing, with falling subscriber numbers and their need for new business models based on advertising, professionals are trying to understand which solutions would work best for them.
Moderated by EPC managing director Alexandra Lebret, the talk welcomed producers Pilar Benito (Morena Films, Spain), Marco Chimenz (Cattleya, Italy) and Gudny Hummelvoll (Hummel Film, Norway). After an introduction by Lebret, mentioning the dramatic fall in platform subscribers in the last few months (a total of 800,000 for Amazon alone, for example) and asking whether this was the beginning of a complete shift in the market, Chimenz responded, “Storytelling has been part of human history since the cavemen; it’s now mostly in an audiovisual form, so I think this is not going to change, and platforms are not going to disappear. The industry is rebounding from a crisis, and this is actually happening mostly in the USA - they are still growing in other territories. The good thing here is that the industry is becoming more reasonable, and the prices of these companies will stop being driven only by expectations regarding their subscriber numbers.”
However, in this “third age” of VoD, as Lebret defined it - ie, one in which the platforms need to fight the ever-growing competition - is there any evolution in the type of content they are asking for or the ways they are financing it? Benito said, “They are not so risky any more in terms of content; they are now approaching a model which is more similar to what we would see on linear TV. In the end, we will end up having a lot of AVoD platforms that will be very similar to linear TV.”
According to the professionals, the imminent arrival of AVoD (advertising-financed VoD), after it was first introduced by Netflix, is going to represent a major shake-up in the landscape. Chimenz said, “When the platforms ended up having a big percentage of the population as subscribers, they found themselves having to go mainstream if they wanted to keep them – and the ultimate step is introducing advertisements to compensate for their losses. What is important in this new model is that the platforms will have to start giving advertisers the exact audience and viewing data that they constantly refuse to make public or to tell producers. This means that we will finally be able to start making proper deals as producers and talents when there is upside, which will enable creators to benefit from the real success of their work.”
There is a new financing model that is gaining a foothold, thanks to the emerging, smaller VoD platforms that are working together with other platforms or traditional broadcasters in order to compete with the big streamers. Hummelvoll said, “Co-commissioning is going to be a more common thing, especially with pubcasters and local streamers working together to find all the money they need to create their content. There are so many streamers and not that many people, so they have to work together to be competitive.” The concept of co-exclusivity deals was also introduced by Chimenz, who said they “are part of an enhanced development in the market. The streamer might not be able to finance it all so might only ask for the first exhibition window while leaving the second one to another player. This is interesting from a technical point of view and is not hard to envisage, so it’s only a matter of time before it stops being devilishly hard in legal terms.”
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