When television became the subject of French envy, many voices were raised to say it was the end of dark rooms. “The cinema is on the verge of ruin with the mass sale of televisions!” We heard that everywhere. Today history repeats itself, but now it’s no longer about television, it’s about on-demand entertainment services like Netflix, OCS, Disney +, Amazon Prime and many others that are making their way into our daily life. As the French spend more and more time on streaming sites, the question arises: does this habit mean the end of the film industry as we knew it this time around?
Pay for television
Back to the 20th century to follow the first steps of television. In the early 1970s, one in ten households had a television. It wasn’t until the end of the decade that that number exploded and television invested 9 out of 10 households. The programs will take on color in the same period. The number of channels will multiply in 1984.
In 2019, 93.4% of households in France were equipped with a television, a very small decrease compared to previous years. Television is part of the daily lives of many French people, and it is their habits as viewers that we will elaborate on in this article to understand how on-demand entertainment services take precedence over traditional channels (or “television” linearly ” ).
The arrival of Netflix in France
To talk in detail about the impact SVOD has had on our lives, we need to go back to Netflix’s First Steps. The platform arrived in France a little over 6 years ago, on September 15, 2014 to be precise. Before entering the French scene, the sector was dominated by CanalPlay, which at the time had 800,000 subscribers. It took only four years, in which Netflix broke all records, before CanalPlay surrendered and gave way to the American giant and put the key under the door.
Netflix has therefore quickly established itself as the undisputed champion of SVOD in France. It must be said that the proposed catalog is large and that there is something for everyone. In 2019, a Times study claimed that it took 32,600 hours to complete all series and films on the Netflix platform. At Amazon Prime, the platform offered 22,600 hours of programs to discover in the same year. This surge in power has sparked much debate in France.
Reactions from the film industry
On-demand entertainment platforms worried the film industry and the concept of media schedules early on. For example, in 2017 the fact that two films (The Meyerowitz Stories and Okja) that had never been shown in theaters could be shown at the Cannes Film Festival hit the headlines.
Things got worse with Franck Riester’s January 2020 announcement, which indicated that with enough investment, platforms like Netflix could hope to release movies faster than the media timeline previously suggested. . This announcement sparked much debate. Critics of the project said they were outraged and had already thought of the huge loss it would mean to French cinemas. Ted Sarandos, CEO of Netflix, talked about it in an article by La Croix:
I recently saw a French film from the 1960s in which a character complained that the cinema was doomed for watching TV, but see what happens now. Nowadays, people watch movies in theaters or on Blue-Ray, legal downloads or Netflix. It’s part of a struggle to find the best ways to live together.
For the American businessman, the rise of Netflix was therefore not a threat to cinemas. Ted Sarandos even remembered that this fear was already present in the population after the appearance of videotapes and that the cinemas had not closed for any of this. But then what is it really? At the moment we already have a little more perspective on this matter. Can we say that Netflix, Amazon Prime, or even Disney + are directly endangering the cinema industry? We offer you some numbers so that you can form an informed opinion on this topic.
The numbers for streaming platforms
First, we need to specify what we mean when we talk about people watching streaming from a TV (since the study we’ll mention a little later is based on this type of viewer). There are actually two very different categories:
Those who prefer SVOD (stands for “Subscription Video On Demand”) include streaming platforms that require a monthly or annual payment, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Those who prefer AVOD (stands for “Advertising Video”) On Demand, “includes advertising-funded streaming platforms (e.g. what Peacock does).
Of course, there is no incompatibility between these two services. A user who is used to watching SVOD can see AVOD very well from time to time and vice versa. The early days of streaming were dominated by SVOD services, but a large majority of streamers now access AVOD regularly. By the end of the fourth quarter of 2019, 75% of all streaming regulars had accessed the AVOD service at least once, and it is likely that the AVOD audience will continue to grow over time. Although the number of SVOD viewers is greater (especially in France, where AVOD has not yet launched), the number of viewers on AVOD is currently tending to increase worldwide.
Now that we know that streaming regulars are the ones who love SVOD and those who prefer AVOD, we can understand the numbers Samsung reported. Indeed, the company conducted a comprehensive survey to quantify the number of people who watch linear television and those who choose to stream (and thus SVOD and AVOD). According to published figures, for the first time in our history, the number of people in the world who watch streaming (58%) exceeds the number of people who watch TV (42%). The popularity of streaming sites is so great that even at prime time, more viewers will watch a series or movie on one of the affected platforms than television. Unsurprisingly, the market leader in 2020 is still Netflix with 6,000,000 subscribers on French soil.
The reasons for this change in attitude
We can give several reasons to explain the French lack of interest in television in favor of streaming sites. First, for some of the population, the content shown on television is a problem. In fact, for many viewers, the variety of programs on public channels is not available. Florent Dumont, director of audience strategy at France Télévisions, decided to ask the French directly what they wanted for tomorrow’s television. In this regard, he said on September 7, 2020 on behalf of FranceInfo:
Two years ago we carried out a consultation with Radio France entitled “My Tele / My Radio Tomorrow”. We have taken into account the expectations expressed by the French, for example by creating new programs to fight against “false news” like “True” or “Fake on Franceinfo” or “Environmental” (…). This year, the public media made many changes to their offering during the lockdown. Today it seems important to us to ask our audience again about their expectations.
France Télévisions is well aware of this, it is necessary to understand what the French want in order to adapt as much as possible so as not to be left behind by the streaming giants. These numbers also need to be linked to 2020 and the pandemic we are currently experiencing. With COVID-19, sports, which make up a significant portion of the television audience, can no longer be watched. The Samsung study shows that those who watched TV almost exclusively for sports programs decreased their time watching TV by -45% in a week with no sports programs on TV alone. These viewers have largely turned to streaming, according to this study.
What are the consequences for the future?
In the short term, several consequences are possible if the trend does not reverse. With regard to television, broadcasters must first redouble their efforts to offer programs that appeal to the most. For on-demand entertainment platforms, their budgets are expected to increase further in the years to come.
Therefore, more films could be awarded each year that never saw the light of day in the cinema, although several jury members are still formally against it. Regarding French cinemas, different strategies could be put in place, such as lowering the price of seats, to save this disastrous year and prevent streaming sites from going too far. It is worth remembering that between the first nine months of 2020 and 2019, the CNC recorded a -62.7% decrease in admissions.