Netflix chief says 'mistakes' led to Cannes boycott

Lille (France) (AFP) –


Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Thursday the streaming giant had made errors regarding its spat with the Cannes film festival over the platform's dramatic withdrawal of its films this year.

"Sometimes we make mistakes. We got into a bigger situation with Cannes than we meant to," said Hastings, in Lille, northern France, for the Series Mania festival.

For 2018, Cannes banned from competition any film from the streaming service which did not respect France's strict 36-month window between cinematic release and availability on demand.

Last month, festival director Thierry Fremaux said he was hoping to heal the rift with the Silicon Valley giant after Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos claimed its films were being "treated disrespectfully".

Sarandos suggested Cannes were thereby putting distribution ahead of the art of cinema.

Cinema owners had protested last year at the inclusion of two Netflix films, "Okja" and "The Meyerowitz Stories" as they had not already been released in French cinemas.

Netflix, with some 125 million global subscribers, reportedly then pulled five films in the running for this month's festival after the three-year rule was brought in.

"I know we have a reputation as a disruptor," said Hastings, adding that Netflix did believe Cannes was "very sincere at finding a model that works for them and us" eventually.

"We love Cannes. We've been many years and have buyers going this year," he stressed, saying Netflix did not aim to derail a system he said had proved its worth for the French film industry.

At the same time, he said the firm had to think of subscribers who would not want to wait three years to watch a new release which the company had produced directly, pointing out that Netflix treats films as it does series, targeting subscribers rather than cinemagoers.

Hastings also said streaming companies should not be thought of as competition to cinemas, alluding to the difference between eating in and sometimes deciding to go to a restaurant.

In summing up, Hastings said that "regulation is essential" and Netflix had a responsibility to find how to work within the system.