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Source: Netflix

Netflix has confirmed a further push into France, with the opening of a new office in Paris next year, as well as investment in three new French-language drama series and the acquisition of another four local productions.

CEO Reed Hastings made the announcement to journalists on the set of the sci-fi drama series Osmosis in France on Thursday (Sept 27).

He said the new Paris outpost would initially employ some 20 people. It is the company’s third European operation, after its regional headquarters in Amsterdam and London offices. The latter is being expanded to include a commissioning hub.

Hastings said the rapid growth of Netflix’s subscriber base in France since its launch there in 2014 had been the key driver for this fresh push into the country.  The company does not traditionally reveal data on subscriber numbers but Hastings agreed a suggested figure of around 3.5m French subscribers was in the right ballpark.

Hastings did not give precise details of the structure of the new French operation but said its activities would cover both commissioning and marketing.

 “We want the Paris bureau to be a good place to come and pitch good ideas,” he said.

Scoping talent and commissioning content

It is the second time the company has attempted to launch an office in France. It opened a small operation at the time of its 2014 but closed it in 2016 and moved the positions to Amsterdam.

It is clear, however, the company has been quietly busy scoping out talent and commissioning content in the interim.

Hastings revealed the company is investing in three new original French-language and had also acquired another four productions.

The three Netflix-backed TV productions include Igor Gotesman’s comedy Family Business, about a man who recruits his friends to transform his family’s ailing butcher shop into France’s first coffee shop. It is created and developed by Goteman whose solo directorial feature credit is the buddy movie Five.

It has also boarded Samuel Bodin’s Marianne, about a young novelist who discovers the terrifying characters she writes in her bestselling series of horror novels might also be living in the real world. Bodin co-wrote the series with rising series writer Quoc Dang Tran.

It is produced by Empreinte Digitale and Federation Entertainment, which produced Netflix’s debut French-language series Marseille.

The third investment is an adaptation of the novel Vampires, by late writer Thierry Jonquet, about a family of vampires who dream of being human. It has been adapted for television by Benjamin Dupas and Isaure Pisani-Ferry.

Acquisitions include Leïla Sy and Kery James drama Banlieusards about a teenager growing up in a difficult neighbourhood on the outskirts of Paris, faced with tough choices about his future path, and Remy Four and Julien War’s La Grande Classe, two “uber-Parisians” who return to their small town for a high school reunion.

The company has also acquired the documentary Solidarité by Stéphane de Freitas exploring the stories of five ordinary heroes who became symbols of resilience and hope.

Netflix has also picked up Elisabeth Vogler’s innovative crowd-funded love story Paris Est Un Fête, a real-time French love story shot over three years on the streets of Paris, crowds against at a time of tension due to terror attacks and social upheaval.

These new titles join another seven French-language series due to come out soon including Osmosis, Damien Chazelle’s The Eddy, Omar Sy-starrer Arsène Lupin, and the comedy romance Plan Coeur by Noémie Saglio.

“If these 14 shows are successful in France, we could double the number of shows we produce in the coming years and if they export well, we could go faster,” said Hastings.

“We’re trying to become better European and French citizens”

Netflix’s push into France comes amid an ongoing debate in the country’s TV and film sectors over the pros and cons of the company’s disruptive distribution model, favouring simultaneous worldwide releases over staggered launches linked to local TV and theatrical windows.

That debate has been re-stoked in recent weeks amid the controversy over Netflix’s presence at Venice and the Golden Lion win there for Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA – a film which had been earmarked for Cannes but was withdrawn in a stand-off over Netflix’s lack of planned a theatrical release.

Hastings said he hoped a solution could be found ahead of the 2019 edition of the festival.

He highlighted the fact the company was keen to invest and contribute to French creativity. He revealed that the company had started paying a 2% sales tax on its French revenues last week France’s National Cinema Centre (CNC), in a deal brokered with the state body over the summer. “We’re trying to expand and become better European and French citizens,” he is reported to have told journalists.

French media noted, however, the company still escapes the higher investment obligations imposed on local broadcasters and platforms as it is based outside the country. 

But Netflix could soon be subject to making even higher contributions under the European Union’s new Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AMSD). The updated directive, which is in the final phase of adoption, would impose obligations on digital platforms, including a 30% quota for European works.