“Europe Is Not A Homogenous Market”

3 Questions to Marianne Ostrat Estonian film-producer

The film industry is at the core of the debate about the digital single market. As Vice President Ansip, responsible for the DSM-strategy, is Estonian and often uses examples from his home country, Netopia talked to Estonian film-producer Marianne Ostrat to get her perspective.

Per Strömbäck:  Is it difficult for Estonian films to reach their audience through digital channels today? Why?

Marianne Ostrat: Domestically we have two major telecoms providing video-on-demand services based on monthly subscription. Problem is, that their VoD is more of a “little extra” for their subscribers next to their internet, TV and landline phone services. Clearly the main interest of these telecoms is to find and keep subscripition clients, not engaging audiences to the films in their libraries. Also these VoD libraries can’t be accessed over computer or portable devices. Hence domestic VoD is a rather minor source of revenue for Estonian films at the moment. What we are missing is a simple, local, popular and widely used internet platform that would allow audiences to access Estonian films from all devices either on pay-per-view or subscription basis whenever they like. There have been several attempts to create such platform, but for some reason none of them has gone to the masses yet – despite the fact, that Estonia has regularly operating cinemas only in the bigger cities and in my opinion such platform would be the easiest and most comfortable way for Estonians to watch our films legally and in good quality. So the potential of domestic digital channels is currently not fully exploited by Estonian films, I’d say.

PS: Do you see a potential market in the ex-pat community?

MO: There are of course Estonian ex-pat communities abroad – for example in London, Toronto, Sweden, Silicon Valley and recently Australia, who are interested in seeing latest Estonian films. But we don’t see it as a massive market and source of revenues as we are so few. Also one way or the other these ex-pats manage to see the new Estonian films, even if they are not distributed by a local distributor in these countries – either from a DVD shipped from home or by collaborating with the producer and organizing a one-off official screening in their community.

PS: What do you think of Vice President Ansip’s idea of a digital single market?

MO: I think the Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe incorporates some good ideas and initiatives regarding e-commerce, that both consumers and companies would benefit from – for example a simplified system for VAT collection. What concerns more specifically audiovisual industry, then copyright law, territoriality and hence justified geo-blocking are so strongly interlinked with how production of audiovisual works in Europe and worldwide is financed today, that I have no clue, how European Commission, President Juncker and Vice President Ansip will guarantee the supply of European audiovisual works in current or increasing volume and cultural diversity in case that financing system should get destroyed as an aftermath of the digital single market strategy. This is what strongly worries me and my colleagues in Estonia, Europe and also outside Europe as we don’t see a credible and potentially working alternative financing model present in current communication and discussions about the digital single market strategy. Also, the advocates of DSMS should not overlook the fact, that Europe, unlike US, is not a homogenous market when it comes to languages and the ways audiovisual works are consumed in different territories – subtitling versus dubbing for example. I understand the intentions behind DSMS, but what concerns audiovisual sector, there are some critical issues that need to be overcome, before the digital single market can start to function without harshly and negatively impacting the European audiovisual industry.