FOR MEMBERS

When your favourite films and TV shows will be available in France

A hand holding a TV remote control that is pointing towards an out-of-focus TV screen
Photo: Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash
Between TV channels, streaming services and pay-TV it's never been easier to catch your favourite films and TV shows while in France - but working out when programmes will become available on French services is a complicated question.

Between French laws designed to protect the country’s cinema industry, European content and finance agreements and international deals with big studios there are a lot of factors at play when we look at, for example Black Widow isn’t available on Disney + in France, even though it is in other countries.

How to watch

If you want something to watch in France, obviously there are the standard TV channels such as France 1 and France 2. Naturally, these mainly show French content, and if they are screening something from outside France (Friends gets regular reruns on French TV) it will almost always be dubbed into French.

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Beyond these free-to-air channels, what digital channels you can watch depends on which internet-phone-TV package operator you decide to use. 

In addition to this, there are pay-TV broadcasters, such as Canal+ or OCS (the home of Succession producer HBO in France) to take into account, plus beIN and/or RMC for out-and-out sports fans.

And then there are the subscriber streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon Prime, and these are where you are more likely to find English-language content. EU content rules mean that platforms like Netflix have to show a certain amount of Europe-produced content, which means that the platform is a great place to find shows from all around Europe, either dubbed or subtitled into French or English.

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When content arrives

Beyond the expense, rules for traditional broadcasters can mean viewers have to wait a while for big films to show up in the TV guides or on some streaming services – as long as three years in some cases.

There’s a hierarchy of dates involved in releases of cinema-released films on TV, starting with DVD and paid-for video-on-demand services from three to four months after the cinema release, then pay-TV cinema channels – in case you wondered why Canal+ needed a dedicated Canal+ Cinema channel.

Other (non-cinema) pay-TV services that contribute to financing European cinema production can pick up broadcast rights 22 months after a film’s cinema release; followed by non-contributing pay-TV operations after 30 months, then subscription video on demand (SVOD) after three years; and, finally, free VOD after four years. 

Streaming services like Netflix, unless they produce the films, cannot pick up a movie for streaming on the platform until three years after its theatrical release. 

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These rules are in the final stages of a long-running digital-age update to include these platforms. The 36-month window between a film’s theatrical launch and its release on streaming video on demand services has meant that the likes of Netflix have generally avoided new cinema releases altogether in France – which is why French films on Netflix tend to be older classics. 

This theatrical release to streaming service window could be shortened to as little as 12-14 months depending on what percentage of turnover in France a platform commits to local content.

The recent spat between actor Scarlett Johanssen and Disney over its decision to release Black Widow simultaneously in theatres and on Disney+ hid another France-specific story. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe origins story has just hit paid-for video-on-demand services in France, and – under current rules – will not be available on the platform for another two years, despite being on the service in other countries.

There were concerns in the cinema industry in France that Disney may decide to follow Netflix’s lead and end cinema releases here. It’s easy to imagine that losing a Disney blockbuster would hit French movie theatres hard. 

Those aren’t the only regulations, either. Strict rules on the scheduling of films on standard linear TV – as opposed to on-demand or streaming services – were relaxed in 2020. 

That change ended a 21-year ban on the broadcast of most films on Wednesdays and Fridays before 10.30pm, all-day Saturdays, and Sundays before 8.30pm which had been introduced to protect French cinema businesses.

But the rise of streaming video on demand services meant the law was outdated, even with the three-year delay on adding films to their library that they had not produced. 

Today, the only restriction on showing films – once the release time-limit has passed – on linear French TV is one that regulates the broadcasting of films on Saturdays in the primetime post-8.30pm slot. TV channels can only show arthouse films, or ones that they have at least in-part financed at that time of a Saturday evening – again, to protect French cinema production.


Member comments

  1. Or just pay for a fast download site like Nitroflare or Rapidgater and download anything from a site like ReleaseBB. I find it an insult to the actors when a recognized voice is dubbed. Subtitles are much better.

      1. Yes but with a crap broadband speed, we are supposed to be getting fiber, it slows it down too much and most streaming sites have got wise to VPN.😲

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