Décision de justice

Release window for films released in cinemas: the calendar for defining the new rules is not suspended

A court order in December 2020 requires TV channels and video-on-demand platforms to jointly define a new broadcasting calendar for films released in cinemas, failing which new rules may be imposed on them by decree after 1 April 2021. Canal+ asked the court to suspend this ruling; however, the urgent applications judge noted that it had not been demonstrated that this calendar would in itself have an adverse economic impact on the channel. Since there was no proven urgency, the judge therefore rejected this request.

Under European law, on-demand audiovisual media platforms (such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+) will have to contribute 20 or 25% of their turnover towards French audiovisual and film production as of 2021. In return, new rules concerning the release window (French "media chronology") for films released in cinemas must be established in order to reduce asymmetric competition between platforms and television channels, some of which benefit from rights to broadcast films earlier.

The Government had demanded television companies and platforms reach an agreement on this broadcasting chronology before 31 March 2021. If no agreement is in place by that date, the Government may, if it so wishes, issue a decree to establish new release-window rules.

Canal+ brought the case before the urgent applications judge because it considered this deadline to be too short and claimed that the platforms were sure of obtaining new, more favourable rules from the Government in any case.

This request was rejected, because the judge considered that it was impossible to predict the broadcasting rules that could be decided upon by the Government in this scenario. Moreover, the competitive pressure that may be exerted on Canal+ cannot be measured at this stage, since this is as much linked to the arrival of new players on the market and to changes in consumption patterns to the definition of a new release window (broadcasting chronology).

The TV channel also denounced the fact that, by acquiring film rights, these platforms can decide not release films in cinemas and make them directly available to the public. The urgent applications judge of the Conseil d'Etat noted that this practice was not linked to the issue of renegotiating the broadcasting chronology, since the fact a film is not released in cinemas also frees Canal+ from the broadcasting rules in force.

The urgent applications judge of the Conseil d'Etat therefore rejected Canal+'s request because the potential negative economic effects of the negotiations imposed by the Government, or of the measures that the Government might adopt in the event these negotiations fail, are not known at this time. The channel is therefore not in an urgent situation, whereas this is an essential prerequisite for the urgent applications judge to be able to order measures.

Read the decision n°450638-450645 (in French)