Neelie Kroes: Helping European films thrive

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It’s a pleasure to be here with you in Cannes.

You know, I’ve spent a lot of my recent career tackling the dominance of Windows. But this time it’s a bit different, and a bit more subtle.

An increasingly digital society brings opportunities and challenges for everyone. Including the audiovisual sector. Today I hope we can get your ideas for how best to meet those.

Online video-on-demand is a new way for people to enjoy and consume films. And there are different ways for the industry to view that.

On the one hand, you could see it as a threat to the status-quo, as something against which cinemas or broadcasters can’t possibly compete; something to be resisted.

But I don’t agree. Just look back. Once, film and cinema were themselves new technologies: exciting, disruptive, unique. And then other technologies came in turn to compete and disrupt: the television, the video cassette, the DVD.

In the wake of those changes, the cinema didn’t merely survive, but flourished. Not by ignoring those changes, but by adapting to them, and benefiting from them.

Once the cinema was where you went to watch the news: no longer. But people still happily pay hundreds of millions to see a single film in a single weekend. Adaptation has made the industry stronger

Or, likewise, look at how the music industry has responded to changing technology.

Over the years there have been increasing ways to listen. First just in the concert-hall, then from the comfort of your living room, then with headphones on the way to work, then downloading, and now streaming services: for access that’s instant, on-demand, on-the-go.

Some saw these new possibilities as a threat, and resisted them. For too long, the music industry resisted promoting legal downloads. But that didn’t do them any favours.

In the end, this new technology was better for everyone. Better for consumers, who got more convenience and choice. Better for artists, who got bigger audiences buying their music. And better for all sectors, all channels of the industry. Because people who download music don’t stop buying CDs, or stop going to concerts: they do it all the more.

Nothing beats the online channel for instant access; but nothing beats the experience of live music. And both complement and support each other.

I think it’s the same for films. The digital age isn’t a threat to the film industry, neither to cinemas nor broadcasters. It’s not something to be ignored; still less something to be fought, tackled, legislated against. But it’s an opportunity: something to be welcomed, supported, embraced.

Online channels offer a new way to reach out to a different audience—an audience who, for one reason or another, wouldn’t go to the cinema.

A new tool to market, promote and generate a “buzz” – think of the power of friends’ recommendations on social media!

Or you can even find in the online world a source for new film ideas. Maybe Angry Birds: the Movie won’t take many prizes here in Cannes; but I’m sure many film-goers will happily pay to see it.

I am optimistic that, for the film sector, the opportunities of ICT significantly outweigh the costs. But I also want to help, because the right legal framework can support. Here to read more.

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