De nouvelles mesures pour le cinéma à la télévision
Sébastien Lachaussée & Elisa Martin-Winkel

Sébastien Lachaussée & Elisa Martin-Winkel

New measures for movies on French TV

In June 2020, Edouard Philippe, then French Prime Minister, announced to the leaders of the private and public broadcasting sector, a division of the French audiovisual law, in order to deal with certain points as quickly as possible, despite the difficulties due to the global health crisis. In this context, 2 new decrees were published on August 6, 2020, dealing respectively with the advertising of cinema on television and the days of broadcasting of feature films in France.

  • Cinema advertising in France

Film advertising and movie trailers on television were traditionally banned before DVD or video-on-demand of such films were released. Such ban was intended to preserve independent films from American or French blockbusters with high marketing budgets.

With the gradual arrival of VOD platforms, an asymmetry arose more and more strongly, as the latter are able to freely carry out television advertising.

In 2013, a first reform project was considered before Aurélie Filippetti, then France Minister of Culture, renounced modifying the conditions for cinema advertising.

An opinion of the French competition authority dated February 21, 2019 pertaining to the audiovisual reform proposals took up the idea by calling for « loosen the constraints weighing on the historical companies » of the audiovisual sector .

French government ultimately followed the advice of the competition authority by stating in a decree that television channels « may broadcast commercials relating to the film industry. » There are no restrictions on the terms of such advertising.

It is to be recalled that initially French government proposed a quota system to reserve part of the advertising for European and arthouse films (« art et essai ») with a double quota, then proposed a quota for films with a budget inferior to 5 Millions euros.

The advantage of the actual measure is a strict equality with the VOD platforms

In this sense, Christophe Courtois, director of French audio-visual group SND was delighted with the lifting of the ban, recalling that television was a very effective promotional tool and that “All studies attest to the public’s sensitivity to images: TV trailers would make them want to go to the movies. « 

On the opposite, independent distributors and producers are worried about the increased competition between their pictures and blockbusters, as television advertising can be very expensive and that some large distributors are affiliated with television channels, as is the case in particular of SND.

As soon as the opinion of the competition authority was published, Eric Lagesse, CEO of the French distribution company Pyramide and co-chairman of the European Reunited Independent Distributors, opposed the recommendations in this regard. He recalled that advertising was very expensive for independent distributors and that as a result « Those who will take the lion’s share will be able to broadcast their ads before the 8 p.m. news, when ours will pass at midnight ».

On July 24, 2020, the Bloc, a French group of professional film organizations, further indicated in its press release that: « The massive increase in distribution costs will lead to a strengthening of the already worrying concentration in favor of major productions. This competitive distortion will be to the detriment of French and European cinema, and in particular of the independent French industry. ”.

Dominique Boutonnat himself indicated in 2019 during the congress of the National Federation of French cinemas that « It is potentially dangerous for French independent distribution » and « that a certain number of films will not have the means to afford advertising « .

The measure taken by the decree is currently temporary, for a period of 18 months.

It is expressly provided that a report will be made public by the government in order to decide whether to perpetuate such provision or to end it.

Such report should in particular take into account the impact of the measure on cinematographic distribution and cinema attendance, taking into account the diversity of pictures that benefited from TV advertising.

  • Quota and release schedule of feature films on TV

French television channels are subject to broadcast quotas for cinematographic films.

The decree published on August 6 increased these quotas. Accordingly, television channels will be able to broadcast 244 films per year and no longer 192, of which a maximum of 196 in « prime time » (between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.) against 144. The additional quota in favor of arthouse pictures is maintained with the possibility of broadcasting an additional 52 arthous pictures excluding prime-time.

Above all, it was forbidden to broadcast cinematographic works on television on certain days and times.

Decree n ° 90-66 of January 17, 1990, as amended, thus set the rules relating to the distribution of cinematographic works with protective measures in favor of cinematographic works and a ban on the broadcasting of pictures certain days or certain time slots, in order to protect theatre exhibition.

In application of this text, no cinematographic work could be broadcast:

– Wednesday evenings, except for services that meet certain conditions (with the exception of arthouse films broadcasted after 10:30 p.m.);

– Friday evening (with the exception of arthouse films broadcasted after 10:30 p.m.);

– Saturday all day;

– Sunday before 8:30 p.m.

This measure was criticized by French channels, all the more with the arrival and rise of VOD platforms which are not subject to the quotas applicable to TV channels.

The withdrawal of this ban was already included in the Boutonnat report (French report and advices for the future of cinema and TV sector) and integrated into its second – Restore market value to all operating windows within the framework of a renewed media chronology in order to attract more channels from television to cinema.

The recent decree removes any ban on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and only regulates the broadcasting of films on Saturdays after 8:30 p.m.

Thus, on Saturday evening, broadcasting of a film is possible only if the TV channel financed its production or if the film is an arthouse work.

The editors of cinema or pay-per-view services also see their constraints greatly reduced and are only restricted on Saturday evenings to the showing of certain films.

The advantage for TV channels is obvious and will allow them to develop more attractive program schedules. This should allow them to fight more effectively against competition from VOD platforms.

This is not yet acquired. Indeed, M6 tried such new regulation in advance – after approval from the CSA – by broadcasting Le Petit Nicolas in prime time on a Saturday evening and did not meet the expected success with only 1.76 million viewers (9.4% of the TV audience).

For French film producers, the measure would encourage TV channels to increase their pre-purchase / purchase of broadcasting rights because more broadcasting windows are open. The measure should also encourage broadcasters to finance production or to acquire arthouse films so that they can be broadcast on Saturday evening.

In order to assess the impact of the decree, it expressly provides for the establishment of a report by the CSA within eighteen months from the entry into force of the decree

Finally, we have to wait to find out what effects these new uses will have on both film production, exhibition and broadcasting.

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