As the major streaming platforms, including Disney+, grow globally, the creation of local content has continued to be an issue, and recently, a group of some of the biggest Danish production companies have released an open letter to the major streaming servers, including Netflix, to recommission local content or risk decimating half of the industry.
Earlier this year, negotiations between the Create Denmark Union, the Danish Producers Association and the major streamers including Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ stopped, with the streaming platforms then pausing ordering any new local Danish films and TV shows to their high coast.
So far, there haven’t been any Dutch originals created. Disney has said that they are committed to sourcing, developing and producing original productions. Across EMEA alone, Disney’s International Content and Operations team plan to create 60 local productions by 2024 as it continues to work with outstanding creators and premium producers in the next few years.
The open letter was signed by the bosses of major indies in the Nation: Fremantle-backed Miso Film, ITV Studios-backed Apple Tree Productions, SAM Productions, Nordisk Film Production, SF Studios and Tall & Small.
Here’s the open letter:
2022 has been a disastrous year for the Danish film- & tv-series business. The worst ever. And 2023 might be even worse. From being one of the most productive and leading countries within development and production of quality series and films to both streaming services and broadcasters, we have now come to a full stop.
Since January, the streaming services have not greenlit new development or production of tv series or films, and there is no sign this will change in the coming months.
The reason why we are in this situation is, that the parties, with Create Denmark on the one hand, and the streaming services (Netflix, Viaplay, TV 2, HBO Max, Disney+, Amazon Prime a.o.) on the other side are unable to agree on a rights agreement that set terms and scope of payment for the transfer of rights from the creative talent.
The Danish Producers Association, supported by the largest producers, worked with Create Denmark to agree on a framework agreement for more than five years. The negotiations were prolonged and complicated. At the end of 2021 a deal was finally struck. A deal which we, from the producer side, saw as the art of the possible, but knew was extremely expensive for the streaming services. The agreement was rejected by all streaming services and has now been formally terminated by both sides.
That we now, nine months into the year still have no solution is not just a financial disaster, but also an irresponsible behaviour towards the Danish film industry as a whole. The positive momentum from before the conflict has been lost.
The misfortune does not only touch producers, but also crews and suppliers, as well as the creatives; script writers, directors, actors, directors of photography, production designers and editors – whose interests are handled by Create Denmark.
Netflix, TV 2, Viaplay, HBO Max and other streamers contribute with a turnover in the Danish market of DKK 1 bill. In a ”normal” year. The end of 2022 is approaching and the turnover we lose this year and in the coming years due to this conflict is of course lost. Not just for producers, but also for the crews, suppliers, and creatives in the industry.
Best case is that it will take years to regain that momentum from the day a solution is in place. The total loss will therefore as a minimum reach DKK 1-1,5 bill., which are lost to the industry.
A loss of income of that magnitude will result in bankrupcies, firings, unemployment and a film industry that is knocked back several years. From full steam ahead, a high demand for labour and positive, upwards trends to a full stop.
Why – what’s at stake?
Create Denmark has demanded the introduction of principles that do not exist anywhere else in the world, and which the streaming services will not accept. In addition, there is the question of payment level – not a choice between ”a little” and ”a bit more”, but between ”a lot” and ”even more”.
But now we need compromises. So we can move on, and recover.
As producers, we have no vested financial interests in the agreements that need to be negotiated between Create Denmark and the streaming services, as we are not parties to the agreements. Our only wish is therefore that agreements are reached which are financially balanced and sustainable for both the creatives and the streaming services. Without agreements, no production. No production, no jobs. No jobs, no rights payments.
Danish content is expensive. The rights payments that have been agreed to historically were also expensive, compared to other countries, and already reflected good terms for the creatives, the rights holders.
The streaming services have other options. Not TV2, as they have a legal obligation to order Danish content. All other streamers can invest in content from other countries which is less expensive or where the terms are not contradictory to the streamer business models.
No other countries are in the same situation, that we are in in Denmark.
All other places have working agreements and terms. It is possible to reach agreements that the rights holders are happy with -as we can see in neighbouring Sweden, where the union Scen & Film recently has expanded a previously agreed to, and thus well tested, rights agreement covering tv series to also cover feature films.
The long-term consequences, if this situation continues, may be more serious than any of us wish to see. A decimation of half of the industry is not unrealistic. And this at a time, where we, together, were growing more than ever. The damage is done. The consequences are already bad enough, and we have not even seen their full extent yet.
We sincerely wish to encourage all parties to negotiate with a will to compromise, so deals can be made. And it is urgent. It must happen now, in order to limit the damages, so we can, once again, produce Danish quality content.
Hopefully, this situation is sorted out soon, as Disney+ subscribers across Denmark will no doubt want to see original content created and released showcasing the best of the region.