Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Helping European films thrive
Roundtable on Financing and distribution of European films in the EU digital market/Cannes
9 October 2012
It's a pleasure to be here with you in Cannes.
You know, I've spent a lot of my recent career tackling the dominance of Windows. But this time it's a bit different, and a bit more subtle.
An increasingly digital society brings opportunities and challenges for everyone. Including the audiovisual sector. Today I hope we can get your ideas for how best to meet those.
Online video on demand is a new way for people to enjoy and consume films. And there are different ways for the industry to view that.
On the one hand, you could see it as a threat to the status quo, as something against which cinemas or broadcasters can't possibly compete; something to be resisted.
But I don't agree. Just look back. Once, film and cinema were themselves new technologies: exciting, disruptive, unique. And then other technologies came in turn to compete and disrupt: the television, the video cassette, the DVD.
In the wake of those changes, the cinema didn't merely survive, but flourished. Not by ignoring those changes, but by adapting to them, and benefiting from them.
Once the cinema was where you went to watch the news: no longer. But people still happily pay hundreds of millions to see a single film in a single weekend. Adaptation has made the industry stronger
Or, likewise, look at how the music industry has responded to changing technology.
Over the years there have been increasing ways to listen. First just in the concert-hall, then from the comfort of your living room, then with headphones on the way to work, then downloading, and now streaming services: for access that's instant, on-demand, on-the-go.
Some saw these new possibilities as a threat, and resisted them. For too long, the music industry resisted promoting legal downloads. But that didn't do them any favours.
In the end, this new technology was better for everyone. Better for consumers, who got more convenience and choice. Better for artists, who got bigger audiences buying their music. And better for all sectors, all channels of the industry. Because people who download music don't stop buying CDs, or stop going to concerts: they do it all the more.
Nothing beats the online channel for instant access; but nothing beats the experience of real, live music. And both complement and support each other.
I think it's the same for films. The digital age isn't a threat to the film industry, neither to cinemas nor broadcasters. It's not something to be ignored; still less something to be fought, tackled, legislated against. But it's an opportunity: something to be welcomed, supported, embraced.
Online channels offer a new way to reach out to a different audience—an audience who, for one reason or another, wouldn't go to the cinema.
A new tool to market, promote and generate a "buzz" – think of the power of friends' recommendations on social media!
Or you can even find in the online world a source for new film ideas. Maybe Angry Birds: the Movie won't take many prizes here in Cannes; but I'm sure many film-goers will happily pay to see it.
I am optimistic that, for the film sector, the opportunities of ICT significantly outweigh the costs. But I also want to help, because the right framework can support.
For example: different member states take different approaches to release windows. In some, strict legislation sets out when a film can be shown in cinemas, when released on DVD and so on. Others take a more flexible approach, able to adapt to the needs of different films, different business models, and new emerging technologies.
But today I'd like to think, not about the status quo, but about what framework would best support the sector. Let me tell you what I'd like to see.
I'd like an environment of rules that lets your sector take advantage of single market economies of scale. Opening up an audience of 500 million people.
A framework that helps the European companies who have new ideas and new business models. I don't want us just to wait for America to nurture new ideas before we import them. I want those ideas to be born here in Europe, and to grow and flourish here too; with easy access to a single market providing fertile soil for that growth.
I want a framework that limits piracy – not simply through ever-more aggressive enforcement, but by making it easier for people to get what they want, instantly, on-demand and legally; without facing frustrating, artificial barriers.
I want a framework offering choice for film fans – with a range of ways for them to enjoy films, a range every bit as sophisticated and diverse as their consumer needs and preferences.
A framework that promotes and protects our cultural diversity: so we can continue to share, learn from and profit from Europe's magnificent cultural heritage.
And, overall, a framework supporting the creative sector. So that we provide the greatest reward and recognition for creators; the highest return for investors; the best results for our cultural sector.
For me, the current practices on release windows don't provide the best combination. So I find this a promising area to look at.
But we need your views on how best to do so. You are the experts on your sector. And you bring a variety of perspectives to these discussions: I want to hear them all.
Please be constructive and creative. Please speak and listen freely and with an open mind. Please let us know your views and experiences of what works—and what doesn't.
That can give us the evidence we need to support a thriving film sector in the digital age.