Netflix Execs Meet French Officials to Discuss Local Launch Ambitions

DOWN: Reed Hastings

Less than a year ago, the Netflix chief's stock was at $285 a share. On July 30, it closed at just $57.75 thanks to slowing domestic growth and the high cost of expanding overseas.

The high-level meetings between the streaming service and government ministers are said to be laying the ground for a September debut in the country.

PARIS – Following months of rumors that Netflix is eyeing a late-2014 launch of its SVOD service in France, the company has started a second round of discussions with the French government and the writers union to pave the way for a September debut.

Netflix executives are set to begin the latest discussions in Paris at the end of the week, with representatives from the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Culture and the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD) on the schedule. Netflix general counsel David Hyman and vp of global public policy Christopher Libertelli met with government officials at the Elysee Palace in December, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings sat down with enterprise and technology minister Fleur Pellerin at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier in January.

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Netflix is also currently engaged in talks with several U.S. entertainment companies about gaining streaming rights for France, Germany and other European countries, the Wall Street Journal reported.

One of the major hurdles for a French launch, which is likely under discussion, is a current law that requires a three-year wait from a film’s big screen debut before being available on SVOD within France. VOD has a four-month wait period, and similar services such as Canal Plus' CanalPlay streams new releases at €4.99 a film.

The latest talks come just after culture minister Aurelie Filippetti gave an outspoken interview to newspaper Journal du Dimanche on Netflix’s entrance as a player in the mostly-untapped French market, stating the company must comply with French regulations and the tax and financing system that sustains the French film industry, and not act “as a stowaway” streaming from Luxembourg, where the company’s European headquarters are located.

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“Netflix must comply with regulations that promote the success of our industries, including the financing of [local content] creation. This is a condition sine qua non to preserve our unique ecosystem," she said of the famous French “cultural exception.”

Netflix will also have to abide by the same rules as cinemas, free-to-air and pay TV networks in distributing a quota of French projects.

Filippetti also said that she hopes Netflix can help combat video piracy, which has hurt not only the film business in France but legitimate VOD, which fell 6.5 percent in the first half of 2013.