Sunday, September 28, 2014

France's Cultural Protectionism Blocks Netflix's Global Reach

At the Los Angeles Times, "Netflix struggles to win over skeptics in film-loving France":
As Netflix has spread its video streaming services around the globe, the company's been met with curiosity, skepticism and, at times, indifference.

But none of the Silicon Valley giant's adventures abroad generated the mix of fear and anxiety that it has stirred in film-loving France before its launch this month.

In a country of proud cinephiles, Netflix has been bashed by national politicians, vilified by cultural leaders and brushed off by potential broadcast partners who have instead beefed up their own competitive video offerings. These groups worry that Netflix will undermine the complex system created by broadcasters and the government to protect a French film industry that is central to the country's identity, and a significant part of its economy.

As the headline in Le Monde put it on the eve of Netflix's launch in France: "Let the Carnage Begin."

Aware of how it is being perceived, Netflix spent months wooing the French, both in public and behind the scenes. The stakes for the company are high.

Netflix is increasingly dependent on international markets for growth, analysts note, and France is one of the largest countries left to conquer. Yet appealing to local consumers is costly, and the company is promising big investments to acquire and produce local content. To ease cultural fears, executives have tried to make the case that the company will expand consumer choice and film production.

For now, though, the French are skeptical.

"We want to say welcome to Netflix," said Dante Desarthe, co-chairman of France's Guild of Authors, Directors and Producers. "But we want them to be respectful of the rules we have created here in France to protect our cinema."