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In The Netflix Era, French Television Must Be Reinvented

Young people especially are turning their backs on France's broadcast networks in favor of American streaming services.

Netflix is producing more and more original programming in France
Netflix is producing more and more original programming in France
Sebastian Menard and Christophe Koszarek


PARIS — Given the flood of on-demand content coming from U.S. streaming services, what France needs is nothing short of a revolution, a response, in other words, that is as ambitious as it is courageous.

By the end of the year, Netflix is expected to have more than 5 million French subscribers. Not only that, but two other streaming services — Apple TV+ and Disney+ — are launching in the near future. And although such platforms have helped fund some original French content, most of our programs are produced by French channels, which are falling further and further behind.

On Jan. 3, 2018, President Emmanuel Macron declared that, "It is important to review the rules and grammar of public broadcasting, in an in-depth and neutral manner." Since then, however, French broadcast policy has not changed much.

Even as providers add new features like replay services, user experience in general has not improved, and more and more people find themselves turning to the user-friendly interfaces of American streaming platforms.

It's a simple equation: portable, digital screens grant viewers on-demand content at reasonable prices, whenever they want it. No wonder then that French youth tune into screens on their phones, laptops, and tablets for streaming content, rather than use the single projection of a stationary television set.

Not to mention that streaming platforms simply provide more content than French producers can make. France's broadcasting industries need to find a way to democratize access to its content across screens, as well as come up with a model that provides viewers generalized access to TV content, focusing on the strict production of original, French productions.

The goal is to achieve a simple, fluid and enriched experience of broadcast television. New functionalities made possible by Over the Top broadcast (internet-based broadcasts through TV) should include: personalized and recommended content, introduction of exclusive premium subscription programs, larger program catalog, and creation of a free multichannel platform with all associated services.

Streaming threatens French cultural sovereignty.

Also, French broadcasters need to invest in content that distinguishes itself from those of American platforms. This is essential. While streaming services can, overall, provide more content — wherever and whenever a user wants — those programs generally lack the cultural connection that French viewers have to French-made media.

The cultural proximity of French content like magazines, fiction, animation, documentaries, entertainment and games are rooted in the cultural identity of French citizens. This is an identity that platforms like Netflix may not entirely be able to target.

And so yes, even though streaming threatens French cultural sovereignty, we are optimistic and wholly support the idea of "reinventing the French model" of broadcasting, as stated by Culture and Communications Minister Franck Riester. We're convinced, in other words. Now it's just a matter of getting to work.

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Photo of Tarragona’s “Correfocs” (fire runners) setting off their fireworks amid a cheering crowd gathered for the Santa Tecla Festival in Catalonia, Spain.

Tarragona’s “Correfocs” (fire runners) set off their fireworks amid a cheering crowd gathered for the Santa Tecla Festival in Catalonia, Spain.

Emma Albright, Valeria Berghinz and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Halo!*

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[*Sundanese, Indonesia]

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