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Netflix makes French content pledge

Netflix Building41-620x413Netflix will win the support of local content creators in France by spending money on productions, even if its Dutch base exempts it from contributing directly to the country’s content creation regime, according to CEO Reed Hastings.

Hastings also said that France’s strict movies windowing system will not be a problem for the streaming video company when it launches there as its main focus is TV series rather than films.

In an interview with French website Télérama, Hastings said that Netflix’s ability to sign “big cheques” would overcome any reservations from the content community about the company’s exemption from contributing to the country’s production sector. As Netflix’s European operations will be based in the Netherlands, the company will not be required to make the same funding commitments as groups based in France including Canal+.

“Lots of people want to work with us. We distribute lots of French and European productions everywhere in the world,” Hastings told Télérama. He cited the example of Abdellatif Kechiche’s Cannes winner La Vie d’Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Colour), which Netflix had given a much wider distribution in the US than its theatrical release would have secured.

Hastings said that Netflix would be required to pay VAT at the French rather than the Dutch rate thanks to changes in European rules to be implemented from 2015 that will see the tax levied in countries where media is consumed rather than produced.

Hastings also noted that, following talks, French digital economy minister Fleur Pellerin understands that Netflix is ready to produce local content and acquiring local rights. He confirmed that Netflix is currently in talks with a producer to create a French political drama series in Marseille, probably to be released next year. Netflix has been linked in France with Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp.

Hastings said he did not believe that France’s windowing system, which means that films cannot be shown on subscription VOD for three years after their theatrical release, will be a problem, pointing out that BSkyB’s grip on premium movie rights in the UK had not prevented Netflix from securing a large subscriber base there. He said Netflix’s main business was the distribution of TV content rather than movies.

Hastings added that Netflix is open to deals, and is in talks with, French distribution partners such as Orange, SFR and Free, but that any agreement would depend on the financial conditions. Netflix’s success did not depend on a deal with an operator, he said.