After opting to skip a French theatrical release with its latest animated film “Strange World,” Disney+ is closing in on a deal with French TV groups over their respective windows.
Disney+ had decided to stream “Strange World” live on the service in France to protest the country’s strict window rules, which only apply to movies first shown in theaters. In France, the window is not a contractual issue as in most other countries; it is regulated by a decree that sets exclusive windows for each distribution platform, starting with cinemas, then pay TV and transactional VOD and free-to-air channels, as well as SVOD.
Guidelines in early 2022 set the window for subscription-based services like Disney+ to 17 months after French theatrical release. They are less restrictive than the previous window, which required consumers to wait three years after the theatrical rollout. But streamers say a concession is not enough, as the new guidelines only apply to films produced in-house or by subsidiaries in the case of Disney with Disney/Pixar and Marvel films, and Amazon with MGM titles such as James Bond movies.
Disney’s protest was sparked by the French demand that streaming services temporarily pull their own films from their platforms five months after streaming starts, allowing free-to-air channels such as TF1, France Televisions and M6 to have their own exclusive window starting 22 months after a film comes to theaters and runs for 14 months.
A change to the window rules is currently being negotiated for films produced in-house by streaming services budgeted over $25 million. If approved by all parties, the change would allow services like Disney+ and Amazon to extend the length of the SVOD window by two months, up to 22 months after theatrical release. In addition, instead of having to pull these films from their services during the entire free-to-air channel windows, platforms will only be required to pull them for 60 days from the first day they air on free-to-air channels.
“We have almost reached a compromise with these services, but we are making the greatest effort,” said a source close to one of France’s free TV groups.
All other parties such as the pay-TV group Canal+ must sign the new change.
The Vivendi-owned banner, which has invested $680 million in local films through 2024 to take advantage of access to fresh films six months after release, has already protested the prospect of such changes being made to current rules.
As for other window rules, those are expected to remain in place for at least another year, though Netflix has hoped for changes in early 2023. Netflix, which invests roughly $40 million in movies — much more than other platforms — still has to wait 15 months in France to stream films distributed in cinemas. Several key meetings will be held in January to discuss these hot-button window issues.