Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandoscame under fire from European film protectionists during his keynote at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday.
When the floor was opened to questions, one French reporter asked Sarandos “if he was aware” that within “5, 10, 15 years,” the Netflix model would “destroy the film ecosystem in Europe.” At issue was Netflix’s policy of not contributing to European film subsidies as most broadcasters in Europe are compelled to do.
Sarandos rebuffed the heckler, saying Netflix would “grow the European film ecosystem” by providing a global platform for European filmmakers. Before he could continue, Harvey Weinsteincame to his defense. The Weinstein Co. boss, who was sitting in the front row of the NEXT conference in Cannes, grabbed the microphone to defend Netflix as a “visionary company” and to trash Europe’s film subsidy system.
“I’d rather politicians spend money on hospitals and schools” than on film subsidies, Weinstein said. He added Netflix’s entry into the European market was “a wake up call” to the “monopolist” European broadcasters such as France’s TF1.
Weinstein argued that Netflix has created a new market for European cinema in the United States, citing the figure that 1 million Netflix subscribers in the U.S. watch French films. “The last foreign language movie that was sold to American network was Costa-Gavras‘ Z back in 1970. “That’s the American networks who take European product and basically say ‘we don’t want it,’ ” Weinstein said.
Earlier, Sarandos engaged in a wide-ranging discussion outlining Netflix’ strategy vis-a-via films.
Some of the key points:
On Netflix versus movie theaters, Sarandos said: “We’re not anti-theaters, we’re pro-movies.” He explained: “Nothing on Netflix can compete with wanting to go out to the movies with your girlfriend. If you don’t want to put on your shoes, nothing in the theaters can compete with Netflix.” He noted that Netflix was willing to work with theaters to release Netflix films simultaneously day-and-date. “The onus is on us to make movies that are so good the theaters will book them even if they are going out on Netflix.”
Sarandos also discussed windowing issues, saying: “Everything about the way we consume entertainment has been changed by the Internet except the first window for theatrical,” noting that waiting 36 months between a theatrical release and an SVOD bow — as is required by law in France — was “too long” and would mean Netflix won’t release its movies in France in theaters until the law changes…
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