France Revises Theatrical Window Rules, Giving Netflix Earlier Access to Films

As streaming continues to assert its dominance over the way movies are consumed, negotiations over theatrical windows and Streaming Video On Demand release dates continue to be one of the film industry’s thorniest topics.

While day-and-date releases of new movies have become increasingly common in America, European rules are generally much stricter. But it appears that could be changing too, per a new agreement reached by powerful players in the French entertainment industry and signed by French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot.

Previously, French films could not be released on SVOD until 36 months after their theatrical release. But Netflix was able to significantly shorten that window, as the streaming giant will now be able to access films 15 months after their initial release. Amazon and Disney will be able to stream films after a 17 month window, and sources believe Netflix’s window may be shortened to 12 months next year. In exchange, Netflix has agreed to produce 10 local French films per year moving forward.

“This agreement is a significant first step towards the modernization of the media chronology. It reflects both our constructive contribution to the negotiation process and our commitment to contribute to the French cinema industry,” a spokesperson for Netflix said. 

Top French TV networks will also receive earlier access to theatrical films, but their 22-month delay pales in comparison to Netflix’s early access. However, the biggest winner is Canal+. Canal is the largest player in the French film industry, and recently committed to investing $679 million in local film production over the next three years. The company will be able to stream films just six months after their theatrical release.

Netflix will invest about $45 million per year in new French content production, per the agreement. Due to its massive popularity in the United States, Netflix has seen most of its recent growth come in international markets. Over 80 percent of its new subscribers in recent years have come from outside of North America. The streamer’s growth in Asia has attracted particular attention, along with its commitment to spend massively on South Korean content. But Europe is another strategically significant region for Netflix, and this news indicates that the company plans to continue to compete there.

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