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This year, a record 3,330 films are on offer at the market, 117 countries are represented, and about 11,000 film professionals are attending the film market. Photo: Reuters
This year, a record 3,330 films are on offer at the market, 117 countries are represented, and about 11,000 film professionals are attending the film market. Photo: Reuters

Cannes Diary III: Changing times

The diverse distribution landscape will be providing more windows than ever before

To my mind, the rules of the game are changing thanks to Netflix’s presence at 68th edition of Cannes. Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix (such titles did not even exist earlier), is here at the invitation of Cannes’ Marché du Film’s NEXT Programme to speak. And there is much expected anxiety among the giants of the industry over the way the paradigms are likely to be shifted regarding the way content will be consumed in the near future.

This will be a watershed year for the entertainment giants to review and accept new technology, new media and consequent soft migration of consumers from the already existing platforms to other newer platforms and content. This is the curtain raiser for new things to come. As a backdrop to this, markets this year are likely to be volatile, considering currency fluctuations, the falling Euro and anxiety over the European Digital Single. The diverse distribution landscape will be providing more windows than ever before.

Netflix’s acquisition of worldwide rights to Jadotville at $17 million signals the ambition of the streaming giant. Weeks before Cannes line-up was announced it picked up Beast of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, for all the rights at $12 million. Netflix has become a kind of a predator in the film and television business. It is rumoured that due to this reason Cannes did not select Beast of No Nation for any section, thus expressing its solidarity with European Union concerns about the web giant’s entry into Europe, diluting their presence and control over the content and its local monopoly.

Netfix’s output deals are spilling into a truly global presence to increase its presence from around 50 countries to 200 within two years. As per the Netflix Long Term View document posted on its website, it says that it has earmarked $3 billion on content spend and more than $600 million for worldwide marketing to exponentially grow its over 62 million subscriber base. Besides TV, Netflix is partnering with original film content creators like Adam Sandler and the Duplass Brothers, as well as the Weinstein Brothers for the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon! This will rapidly increase the concern and sleepless nights of various international distributors. For the buyers and sellers, Netflix and other online platforms represent another revenue stream. And the sales agents are devising new ways to deal with the digital titan and online streaming and downloading rights, considering that the DVD market is nearly dead.

I think the big change is the robustness of this distribution platform and the abilities of such platforms to provide films to hundreds of millions of people on phones, tablets and other devices at any time, any place. Netflix, Amazon, Mubi… these are the future.

I just learnt that while Ted Sarandos was delivering his talk, Efe Cakarel’s expanding VoD service MUBI is also in Cannes and prospecting for worldwide distribution deals for marquee titles. Mubi has already acquired all rights to Corneliu Porumboui’s The Second Game and the Locarno Golden Leopard winner From What is Before by Lav Diaz. Cakarel has indicated that MUBI will ultimately invest in original content.

Besides the Ted Sarandos talk, the Marché du Film has just launched an investors club aimed at high net worth individuals seeking to invest in cinema. Under the initiative, the Marche will host a day of workshops for a dozen wealthy individuals and introduce them to top producers and sales agents in the industry. Said the head of marketing, Jerome Paillard, “Lots of investors tell me that in the current climate, in which returns in the financial markets are weak, cinema, when it’s managed well, makes sense."

This year, a record 3,330 films are on offer at the market, 117 countries are represented, and about 11,000 film professionals are attending the film market.

The Cannes Film Festival will be held from 13-24 May.

Sunil Doshi is a film producer and a regular at Cannes.

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