French films are popular around the world, but they are not always easy to access. Current streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu do not offer a wide range of French films and programs and they are often only available for a limited time. In addition, French films are not always available for streaming worldwide.
This was the problem Frenchman Clément Monnet faced when working outside of France.
“I lived in Asia, Latin America and North America for 10 years and I always had trouble finding French films online… when I was nostalgic for my country,” he said. declared. “Now, video streaming on demand has exploded and there are many platforms, but none is dedicated to French cinema while France is the second largest exporter of films in the world. “
Monnet’s solution is Cinessance, a platform dedicated to streaming films only in French which will eventually be available worldwide. As of November 16, Cinessance has been available in the United States and Canada only, with expansion planned in other countries. Cinessance claims to have overcome the catalog inventory, license and availability problems by offering a large catalog of films and programs only in French that will appeal to Francophones and Francophiles around the world. The films will be shown in French with English and French subtitles. Local language subtitles will be added as the service grows.
According to Monnet, France creates roughly the same number of films as the United States, but French films are under-represented on streaming platforms for various reasons. These include in particular the inefficiency of film companies in the distribution and internationalization of production, as well as the evolution of viewing habits of films by consumers. Streaming took off in the first year of the pandemic and the industry is trying to catch up.
“This is exactly why I created Cinessance,” Monnet said. “There is a gap between the quantity of films produced and the quantity available in the new mode of consumption. We had to bring French cinema into the house, on laptops, tablets and phones. This is how the whole project began – by analyzing this gap.
Although building the brand and arousing the interest of the 423 million global audiences of French, Francophone and Francophile expatriates, plus the additional 2.2 billion who use streaming services, is an obvious challenge, there was initially bigger challenges. The first was to gain credibility as a legitimate streaming company with French studios. Second, obtaining the license rights to broadcast films and programs. Even though Cinessance is partnering with French studios (TF1, Canal, EuropaCorp, Orange, Playtime and in discussions with Pathé, Gaumont, SND and many others), the process has been complex.
“My first thought was that any studio would be happy to work with a new platform… and in fact it wasn’t,” Monnet said. “Films are a great asset and they wanted to be selective to offer rights, so the first thing we had to do was prove our credibility as a start-up, raise funds quickly, build businesses and to understand the French film industry, more than we were serious.
Monnet did this by promoting his experience with start-ups, including his last role as CEO of Voom, an urban helicopter taxi company that served Sāo Paulo, Mexico City and the San Francisco Bay Area. in partnership with Airbus and Acubed. Voom unfortunately closed due to the pandemic as one of them was flying, but the lessons learned in the tech / consumer industry are working for Cinessance. Monnet also had a variety of strategic advisers familiar with the film industry and best practices in film licensing negotiations.
The second thing was the long and slow process of obtaining the license rights. It usually depends on personal contacts and round trip negotiations which are handled manually on Excel spreadsheets.
“It’s so slow and manual,” Monnet said. “You have big Excel spreadsheets with the different rights (TV, movie rentals, subscriptions, cinema, non-commercial, music, producer and actor, etc.) for the different countries and that’s a lot of tracking and a lot of manual information in their heads. So it takes a lot of time, resources and… time. There is a lot of back and forth. They represent the rights of producers and they have to check with them, so it’s just a lot of manual transactions.
As a Silicon Valley tech, Monnet had an idea for a product that would speed up the process, but decided the industry wanted to slowly move licenses to make sure they were doing the right process and working with them. good partners.
The Cinessance team have proven their business acumen by setting up a business in one year and offering services from mid-November. Although licensing is slow, the company has worked quickly to develop a catalog of French films for the US and Canadian market. The start-up’s current funding is made up of angel investors and what is known as “funding from friends and family”, but Cinessance is preparing for a venture capital round in France and in the States. -United.
According to Monnet, the company will only be in the United States and Canada for a year or more before expanding to other countries, as the market is already huge and he plans to build a multi-million dollar business before that. to develop oneself. The next targets will be South America, then Asia, Europe and Africa.
“You need to have a very strong product offering and brand before you expand into other countries,” he said. “Expansion, to do it right, takes a lot of energy and focus, and you have to have a very solid foundation. “
Monnet began to develop his personal base in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Auvergne where he graduated from a business school. He then held jobs in Singapore, China and the United States. He made sure his favorite movies were on Cinessance lineup, including Archimedes the Tramp, Four Boys with a Future and Max and the Junkyard.
Perhaps part of Monnet’s (and Cinessance’s) success strategy was taken from Four future friends (Four Boys with a Future) and other favorite movie characters.
Cinessance is available on the web and through mobile apps on iOS and Android. Users will be able to stream to their TVs with Chromecast and Airplay, and plans are expected to be integrated directly into SmartTV channels sometime in 2022.