Netflix, Amazon Face Calls For European Content Quota

The European Commission announced Wednesday it would be seeking to impose a quota for on-demand and streaming video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime of at least 20% European content across its film and TV catalogues. The Commission is also pushing to allow individual EU member states to force on-demand and streaming services to invest directly in European film and TV series through production or as a levy out of revenues payable into a fund. The moves come as the European Commission unveiled a series of proposals aimed at overhauling Europe’s laws over digital content as part of the Audiovisual Media Services directive.

“The proposal also clarifies that member states are able to ask on-demand services available in their country to contribute financially to European works,” said a statement announced in Brussels by the European Commission’s Andrus Ansip and Gunther H. Oettinger.

Last year the European Audiovisual Observatory reported that European TV broadcasters are currently investing around 20% of their revenues in original content, while on-demand providers invested less than 1% in European content.

“Overall, strengthening the promotion of European works for on-demand services will lead to a broader and more diverse offer for Europeans,“ the European Commission commented on the legislative proposals. “This will have a positive impact on cultural diversity and bring more opportunities for European creators.”

Other measures include a requirement that online platforms such as YouTube do more to protect minors, specifically, from violent content and all audiences from materials that might incite hatred as well as measures aimed at giving TV broadcasters more flexibility as to when they show advertising. Video sites like YouTube, however, have been exempted- for now- from the European content quota calls.

The directives will essentially bring the on-demand and streaming sites more in line with Euro TV broadcasters, although the stipulation that at least half of national broadcasters’ content be European will remain in place. The move to legislate for a minimum level of European content is unlikely to affect either Netflix or Amazon adversely. Both companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in local content aimed at shoring up their attractiveness to European audiences. Netflix’s European services, HQ’d out of the Netherlands, already offer a 21% share of E.U. films, according to a European Audiovisual Observatory study cited by the European Commission.

Netflix also recently launched its first French language series Marseilles, starring Gerard Depardieu. That show, about a morally ambiguous politician facing a formidable challenge from a former protege in France’s second city, was met with largely negative reviews when its first two episodes premiered earlier this month on French public broadcaster TF1 as part of a deal with Netflix. It remains to be seen how the rest of the series will fare when it transfers exclusively to Netflix. The SVOD giant also has its $100 million event series The Crown, created and written by Peter Morgan, debuting later this year. The series follows the reign of England’s current and longest-serving monarch Queen Elizabeth II.

Netflix is also teaming with the BBC on on a blockbuster adaptation of the classic novel Watership Down. The four-part animated miniseries is the brainchild of dynamic Brit production-management banner 42. The series will premiere on BBC One in the UK and internationally on Netflix. An A-list collection of talent has been assembled for the project including Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ John Boyega, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Ben Kingsley and Gemma Arterton. Netflix also has local language series planned in Italy, Germany and Spain.

Amazon is also generating plenty of European content itself. The online retail titan is in advanced talks to come onboard Strange New Things, an event sci-fi TV series that Kevin MacDonald is directing, Matt Charman is writing and Left Bank Pictures is producing. The project is an adaptation of Michel Faber’s The Book Of Strange New Things, which was critically praised upon its release in 2014, with the Guardian newspaper calling it, “astonishing and deeply affecting.”

Amazon commissioned The Collection, its first original UK drama series, from producers Lookout Point, who also co-produced BBC-TWC epic adaptation War And Peace. The eight-episode series was created by Pretty Little Liars and Ugly Betty exec producer Oliver Goldstick, in association with BBC Worldwide. The show tells the story of an illustrious Paris fashion house (think: Dior) just after World War II.

Amazon Prime currently operates in the UK and Germany. Netflix is across Europe but is set to face tough competition from Vivendi’s planned pan-Euro OTT platform. Reps for Netflix disagreed with the proposed need for quotas, arguing this could lead to the acquisition of filler content aimed at satisfying the minimum legal levels without necessarily upholding the quality control they say Netflix is dedicated to maintaining.


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