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When Reed Hastings Invites PAF Professionals at Rostand

A real number of charm. Visiting Paris in early February, Reed Hastings warmly invited a handful of professionals from the PAF (French audiovisual landscape) to dinner. The boss of Netflix has, as usual, done a great job, inviting them into a private room of Rostang House, two Michelin stars. "It was very cool and very relaxed," according to several participants.

"He is charming and charming," said one of them, "he wanted above all to receive the professionals in a pleasant way and to show that he was not a barbarian. Since arriving in 2014, Netflix has become the "PAF Disruptor". He walks briskly on the flowerbeds of the historic channels, TF1, France 2, M6, and Canal +, which he has just exceeded in number of subscribers … While not subject to the same regulatory constraints since it is a foreign actor.

Between potatoes with truffles and other pike quenelles, the boss of Netflix has tried to reassure the audiovisual professionals, showing his best. Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat, who sits on the board of Netflix, Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, Isabelle Giordano, Managing Director of Unifrance Films, Pascal Rogard, CEO of SACD, Journalist Léa Salamé, Ara Aprikian, TF1's director of programs, Christophe Ono-dit-Biot, writer, deputy director of the "Point", or Louis Dreyfus, the boss of the "World", were particularly present. The CEO of Canal + Maxime Saada was invited, but declined indicating that he was traveling abroad.

Laughs on Salto

But those who waited for revelations were disappointed. Reed Hasting has released only one piece of information: the number of Netflix subscribers in France that has reached 5 million. And that's all. For the rest, he kept to smiles and vague answers.

"He did not answer the question of whether he would present a film in Cannes," says a participant. The subject is sensitive, the Cannes Film Festival having decided to exclude from the competition films only broadcast on video on demand (without passage in theaters), which excludes Netflix, unless he changed his "policy" … "To the producers who regret not having the rights of the programs, he answered them: I pay 30% more expensive air to say what you complain about? Says another.

At one point, the subject Salto, this SVOD platform that wants to launch TF1, France Televisions and M6 came into the conversation. "Reed Hastings burst out laughing without comment. That says a lot about what he thinks: obviously for him, it's not a subject, "says a guest. "In fact, the whole table almost burst out laughing …", adds another.

"He said that the most complicated country for him was not France but India because of the many dialects," says an audiovisual actor. "And also because of the cultural problems because you can not show everything in the programs in India, there are restrictions," nuance another.

No sport on Netflix

On his competitors, the owner of Netflix has dropped "it is Fortnite and Youtube", as he had already said publicly. "He likes to say that, it's also a way to deny Amazon by not quoting them" smiles a source present at dinner.

While some people were complaining about the inflation of TV rights, Reed Hasting said it did not interest him to put sports on Netflix. "He said that the cost of the programs is depreciated over time, while the cost of the sport is more complicated. It is amortized the same day, people do not watch the sport in replay, "reports one participant. Reed Hastings, however, did not convince many people. Some participants imagine that he can say that very well today and still go tomorrow …

"In fact, he was quite contradictory," said another. On the one hand, he said that he wanted to better integrate into the French cultural landscape but at the same time, he had a very liberal speech saying that what matters in any case is the satisfaction of the public and that's all. He does not care to broadcast European works. The European SMA directive, which must be transposed into French law by 2020, will nevertheless force it to do so …

On the question of giving producers access to more user data on programs, "he seemed to be open" according to two participants, even though he made no promises. As in general on all topics of conversation. "As soon as we asked a specific question, he did not answer, he especially sought to dispassionate the debate and to de-personalize Netflix with professionals," sums up one of them.

Fabienne Schmitt

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