What does the law say about advertising for film on television?
Medieval remains for some, the regulation of the audio-visual dates from 1986, and the decree on the publicity of 1992. This one prohibits, among other things, any advertisement making on the TV the promotion of a movie coming out in theaters. The goal ? Preserving French cinema from Hollywood behemoths, whose marketing budgets far exceed those of our productions.
Even today, film trailers are banned from the small screen until they are released on DVD and VOD. A particularly rigid constraint when we know that Netflix does not hesitate to promote its programs on TV… The subject is an old sea serpent. While in 2013 a reform project seemed in the pipeline, the former Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti had finally given up touching this regulatory asymmetry.
What does the Autorité de la concurrence recommend today?
On 21 February, the Autorité de la concurrence announced its proposals for audiovisual reforms – a prelude to the bill expected this year. And it's time for a big change. Sensitive to David versus Goliath's fight against Amazon and Netflix, AMF suggests "Loosen constraints on historical actors" sector.
Not only could the television advertising ban be lifted, but advertisers could even afford the luxury of targeting their audiences as Netflix monitors its subscribers' preferences to better target its recommendations. One possible trick: TV boxes and decoders, real black boxes of our consumption habits – for now, not used. This data would make it possible to send to the various households the most relevant advertisements. A family with children would capture the trailer of Toy Story, and a couple fond of auteur cinema, that of the next Desplechin. To have…
Who are the industry players in favor of these proposals?
Chains have something to celebrate! Faced with subscriptions plummeting for pay and the collapse of hearings for free, they have long called for a relaxation of existing legislation, seen as outdated. What does the cinema gain? TV being constrained to obligations of financing of the seventh art, the boost of its revenues should a priori be able to benefit the two sectors … But the opinion of the distributors diverges.
"All the studies attest to the sensitivity of the public to the images: the trailers on TV would make them want to go to the cinema", Christophe Courtois, director of SND
Christophe Courtois, Director of Distribution SND, sees the reform a good eye. "It's common sense. Seven hundred films are released each year, and half are failures: why deprive yourself of TV, the most powerful mass media, to promote it? Most people have no idea of movies coming out of the week. All studies attest to the sensitivity of the public to images: the trailers on TV would make them want to go to the movies. "
An attractive analysis. But the "big" distributors are the best equipped to finance the advertising of their films, they could well preach for their chapel … Especially those affiliated to television channels (as SND, subsidiary of the M6 group), which benefit from a strong expertise of the media.
"Of course, TV commercial scares small distributors, concedes Christophe Courtois, it's something they do not know. But it is wrong to believe that the advertising rates on TV are those of twenty years ago. Contrary to prejudice, a TV spot costs less than a big billboard campaign. Instead of a poster on a Morris column in Paris, it's better to have a national showcase thanks to television. "
As for fears of inflation advertising costs, Christophe Courtois judges unfounded. "Ten years ago, we had to manage two new types of advertising investments: the Internet and the distribution of paid trailers in the circuits. Despite this, the exit costs remained stable. " Eventually, the measure could even give the distributor a new negotiating leverage and facilitate arbitrage. "If a cinema imposes too high a price for the broadcast of trailers in its rooms, the distributor would negotiate a better price on TV. "
Last profit hoped for: a better staggering of the outings in the year, in particular in summer, period poor in French films. The seasonal shutdown of emissions that may promote them often discourages distributors. "It's a boulevard that we leave to American movies once a year, believes Christophe Courtois. Being able to communicate on these movies with trailers on TV would change everything. "
Why do not independent distributors agree?
It's a different story for independent distributors who are fiercely opposed to reform. Fearing an advertising tidal wave of majors, they denounce the lobbying chains … And they feel like turkeys of the joke.
"Those who will carve the lion's share will be able to broadcast their ads before the news of 8 pm, when ours will pass at midnight", Eric Lagesse, CEO of Pyramide
"What the Autorité de la concurrence has just released from its hat is shameful, insists Eric Lagesse, CEO of Pyramide and Co-President of DIRE [Distributeurs indépendants réunis européens, ndlr]. We can not afford to invest in TV advertising. Those who will carve the lion's share will be able to air their ads before the 8 o'clock news, when ours will be at midnight. "
An inventory of fixtures among our European neighbors could reinforce this point of view. "In Italy, where the advertising for the cinema is authorized, the distributors can no longer arrive there. Having been in contact with distributors around the world, I have never seen a system as advanced as ours, conducive to the creation of young talents. "
The measure is not free from paradoxes. Because it runs the risk of increasing the expenditure of independent actors to better boost the revenues of large audiovisual groups (M6, TF1, Canal …), whose economy is stronger. Skeptical about the potential effects of runoff on film financing, Eric Lagesse adds: "In this case, it would be necessary to add a clause stipulating that with these new advertising revenues France Télévisions undertakes to buy films from independent distributors. Because we can almost no longer rely on the acquisition of our films by France 4 and France O. "
Same diagnosis for David Grumbach, CEO of Bac Films. "It's a scandalous idea. Half of the films distributed by Bac are first or second films: with such a measure, we would be forced to no longer take so many risks … The average films would become small films, and small films will disappear. There are other ways to help television. Diversity would be the first victim of this reform. "
Does the current regulation already prevent Hollywood ads from being taken over?
Experts in the art of circumventing the advertising ban, American majors have not waited for the proposed reform to interfere on the small screen. "Disney just needs to advertise for Disneyland with a focus on Lion King, while the film comes out as if by chance the following summer. Or put Minions in pubs for Oasis, summarizes Christophe Courtois.
For Marc Le Roy, author of the book Television, cinema and video in the digital age, the flaws were numerous. As the possibility for the chains to broadcast trailers when they do not emit in France – thus MTV or RTL9. Or that for movie studios to sponsor TV shows. Especially, catch-up TV is not subject to the advertising ban: a replay program like Dance with the stars is interspersed with trailers. "This is perhaps the most pleading in favor of a franker opening, believes Marc Le Roy, because the regulation is illegible. Some cases are limited: recently, a commercial for Renault revolved around the characters of Star Wars. "
Certainly, with the reform, the big distributors would preempt the slots that drain most of Audimat, between two episodes of Koh Lanta or the Champions League final. But advertising targeting could mitigate this pitfall. "Take High Flying Bird, Steven Soderbergh, a basketball movie broadcast on Netflix. If it had been a traditional distribution, a good strategy would have been to put trailers on sports channels during American basketball games. Rates are not exorbitant for these nocturnal niches. Similarly, for a food documentary, a distributor would be better off placing movie trailers on kitchen channels. While movie trailers like Men and gods, Xavier Beauvois, would have had their place on KTO, the Catholic channel. "