What is the chronologie des médias?

Why does the French cinema need protection and how can it be adapted to this brave new world?

The chronologie des médias is a french system of releasing films. It sets a rigid timescale from when a film comes out in the cinema to when it is available on other platforms.

Why did the French do this?

As more and more people bought televisions in the 1960s there was a worry that fewer people would go to the cinema. This was compounded when VHS videos came out in the 1980s.

The cinema felt threatened and demanded protection. So France decided it would act and the result was “the chronologie”.

When TV channels such as Canal Plus entered the ring and started mixing things up, the deal was tweaked in 2009. In exchange for pre-financing films, TV channels would get exclusivity rights.

So what are the timescales?

Four months: They are available to buy on DVD and pay-per-view VoD services 

Ten months: Films can be released on pay-tv movie channels that have an agreement with film organisations, such as OCS

12 months: All pay-TV film channels, such as Sky Movies, have the right to air the product

22 months: Movies can be aired on pay-tv channels or free-to-air channels that have an agreement or took part in the production 

30 months: They are available to all other subscription tv services

36 months: Online services, such as Netflix can now stream

48 months: Available, finally, to free-to-air tv services

But this could all change soon. Some filmmakers are not happy with the present system. They say films take too long to come out. While others, such as the Society of Authors and Dramatic Composers (SACD), refused to sign the 2009 agreement. And how do Netflix and Youtube fit into this straightjacket?

What next?

A version three is due to come out soon, which, it is hoped, will take into account new players and old concerns.

Everton Gayle