Rome Film Festival Roundup

This year's Rome Film Festival was full of anticipation regarding the impending local launch of Netflix, arriving on October 22nd in Italy. As such, much focus at the festival’s new MIA Markets event was placed on the role of video-on-demand services and their role in shaping the future of the TV and film markets. Southern Europe has seen far fewer launches of major VoD services than Northern Europe or North America, and has lower relative consumer uptake. But while this means that the region has transitioned less quickly to new delivery modes and funding mechanisms, players in Italy and Spain have plenty of case studies of successes and failures to use in developing their thinking and strategies. Key themes being discussed at the MIA event included:
  • Branded Content. A big topic highlighted by a range of producers targeting new media was the trend for advertisers to increasingly reach out directly to creators, bypassing the traditional agency route. Effectively allowing producers the ability to sidestep advertising revenue sharing models, as well as mitigating the impact of piracy, branded content offers a number of advantages. However, for players like the multi-channel network Maker, looking to make the move back to traditional TV services and the higher associated licensing and acquisition fees, branded-content also comes with regulatory headaches. Product placement is virtually a no-go area in many markets on broadcast, meaning certain successful web shows may never transition to broadcast. Harmonised regulation across broadcast and online video is consequently likely to become an increasing focus in the next few years.
  • Public Funding. Public broadcaster commissioning remains a highly relevant funding source for producers at the MIA event. The funding mechanisms of public broadcasters in Europe often allows a more experimental approach to content creation and distribution, looking for opportunities which commercial players might struggle to develop – at least initially – and participants in MIA Markets were keen to stress the ongoing role which public funding has in the current European film and TV market. Italy's public broadcaster RAI, for instance, launched RAY, an online video platform aiming to get the public involved in RAI's content creation, in February 2015. 
  • International Rights. On the heels of a recent deal to take global rights for the Oscar-tipped Beasts of No Nation, Netflix's global acquisition strategy was repeatedly highlighted as a threat to distributors (who risk losing out to a single major player with a global footprint) and an unattractive development for many producers, who remain wary of signing away exclusive global access to their content rights. However, unspoken was the fact that at the right price, it is likely that few of the producers present at the festival would turn down the streaming giant. But some distributors such as Under The Milky Way (speaking at MIA Markets), which aggregate and provide scale for smaller producers unable to ink deals directly with global giants, are arguably in an increasingly strong position - able to tap into the opportunities for reaching worldwide audiences via key platforms like iTunes and Netflix.
  • Fragmentation. Fragmentation of the device landscape remains an ongoing issue for services. Despite most solutions vendors now supporting delivery to a multitude of devices, keeping up-to-date remains expensive for smaller services. Additionally, content creation for different screen sizes, formats and resolutions is also problematic. A flash poll of the audience of one of the panels moderated by Ampere revealed the majority of producers are still creating content exclusively with one screen in mind – very few were considering multi-platform exploitation.