France’s Revamped Windowing Gives Netflix Earlier Access to Fresh Movies

After months of heated debates and clashes, the French film industry has set new windowing rules for movies that are released in local theaters.

The rules will apply to exhibitors, pay and free TV channels and subscription-based services. They’re expected to be signed by France’s Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot later on Monday (Jan. 24)

Netflix is the only streamer to have signed the agreement and will therefore benefit from having access to fresh movies 15 months after their theatrical release, in comparison to the 36 months under previous windowing guidelines. The latter rule has largely been responsible for the absence of Netflix at the Cannes Film Festival since the event requires every film in competition to have a theatrical bow in France.

“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 Netflix spokesperson told Variety. The streamer hopes to get a 12-month window when the rules are re-examined next year.

Netflix will invest roughly €40 million ($45 million) per year on approximately 10 independent movies whose rights will be owned by their producers and creators. A diversity clause also requires Netflix to spread its investment across smaller movies budgeted under €4 million.

Other services, including studio-backed streaming services such as Disney Plus, have not signed the agreement and will therefore have a 17-month window on new pics. Negotiations with those banners hit a snag because windowing rules are giving free-to-air channels an exclusive window on movies they pre-buy 22 months after their release. That means that Disney Plus, for instance, would have had to temporarily pull their films from their platforms during the months when its movies aired on French TV.

The new release windows complement the rules established in the local application of the European Union’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS), which sets local content quotas for streamers across Europe.

Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus recently signed a long-gestating agreement with France’s broadcasting authorities (CSA) to start investing 20% of their annual revenues in French content. The CSA expects the investment to be between €250 million to €300 million on average per year.

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