The European Union is to pledge $5.6m (€4.2m) to VoD platforms and digital cinema distribution (DCD).

France’s UniversCiné, Germany’s Europe’s Finest and Austria’s are among 13 European VoD platforms and DCD initiatives to benefit from the EU’s MEDIA Programme.

According to the European Commission, the main objective “is to support the creation and exploitation of catalogues of European works to be distributed digitally across borders to a wider audience and/or to cinema exhibitors through advanced distribution services, integrating where necessary digital security systems in order to protect online content.”

The largest sum - $981,000 (€ 750,000) – was awarded to the French VOD platform UniversCiné, which this year plans to extend its EuroVOD network of platforms to new territories such as the UK and Italy and focus on strengthening the strategic position of the project platforms in their respective markets as well as developing ‘multi-channel’ and ‘multi-device’ distribution.

Germany’s Europe’s Finest, which received $392,000 (€300,000) funding from MEDIA, currently has the largest collection of European film classics and current arthouse films for digital cinema.

There are plans to extend its catalogue and add a second pillar of activity by making the Reelport-owned service available as a platform for other distributors so that they can offer the films in digital form to the network of cinemas.

A start was made last year by launching Operation Kino films on Europe’s Finest and - together with new partner Hollywood Classics - the plan is to launch a joint venture “finest-classics” to provide a world-wide dimension to the offer.

Meanwhile, with $262,000 (€200,000) MEDIA backing, Austria’s now plans to evolve from a technical start-up to a full-service film distribution and marketing company to ensure that European films also benefit from economies of scale.

Other platforms supported in this funding round included the UK’s Curzon On Demand and Distrify’s transactional VoD platform MUVIES.COM, the first European SVOD service FILMOTV, and VoD platforms specifically dedicated to documentaries such as France’s, the Netherlands’ DocsOnline, the Doc Alliance Films portal as a partnership between Visions du Réel Nyon, DOK Leipzig, Planete Doc Review Warsaw, CPH:DOX Copenhagen, IDFF Jihlava and FIDMarseille.

Creative Europe

Meanwhile, the debate on the EC’s proposed Creative Europe programme from 2014 has taken another twist following the 27 EU leaders decision earlier this month on a reduced overall budget of $ 1.2tn (€960bn) for its Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-2020.

Speaking exclusively to Screen after the Council’s decision about the possible repercussions for Creative Europe, Doris Pack, chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education, said: “I doubt that we will get as much as we want, but I am sure that we will get more than at present because of the additional activities planned in the new Creative Europe programme.”

Since then, Screen has learnt from a source at the EC in Brussels that the estimated increase in the budget for Creative Europe compared with the sums spent on the Culture, MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes in 2007-2013 would amount to an increase of 12% - a total nearer to $1.7bn (€1.3bn).

In the EC’s original proposal, the Creative Europe’s budget of $2.35bn (€1.8bn) would have represented a 34% increase on the sum allocated to the Culture and MEDIA Programmes in 2007-2013.

The source stressed that the lower increase to the Creative Europe budget was only a projection. “The European Council did not go into detail of specific programms when it agreed the new MFF for 2014-2020, so figures must be treated with caution.”

“The figures we have extrapolated are also based on an assumption that any cuts within the MFF main headings will be applied in a linear or proportional way,” the source added.

Creative Europe also became an issue at the last sitting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education when chair Doris Pack revealed that the name of the EC’s proposed framework programme already exists in France as the name for the citizen think tank Europe Créative which was founded in early 2011.

“If they insist that Creative Europe is their name, we would have to pay to use this name,” Pack explained.

“We would not pay, but decide instead to use a different name. So, let’s start thinking about the possibilities for another name as I don’t remember people being so delighted about the name [Creative Europe] in any case.”