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Lack of choice driving demand for film downloads




33ac13aNearly 70% of Europeans download or stream films for free, whether legally or illegally, according to a new European Commission study on audience behaviour. It also finds that 40% of smartphone owners and more than 60% of tablet owners watch films on their devices.

The study finds that this is not surprising because, while the public takes a lot of interest in films as a whole, the nearest cinema is often some distance from them and the choice on screen is frequently rather limited. It suggests that the European film industry can increase revenues by exploiting different types of profit-making online platforms to increase the availability of films and reach new audiences. The audience behaviour study is based on research, analysis and interviews with audiences in 10 Member States - the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Croatia, Romania, Lithuania and Denmark. Nearly 5,000 people aged between 4-50 were asked about their film habits and preferences.

"The study confirms that the European film industry is not making the most of its potential to reach new audiences or capitalising on cross-border partnerships. We encourage film-makers to make the most of the funding provided through Creative Europe, the EU’s new programme for the cultural and creative sectors, and its MEDIA sub-programme in particular. Its support for film distribution and development can open up new avenues for filmmakers that will enrich Europe's diverse culture and increase audience access to great quality films," said Education, Culture, Youth and Multilingualism Commisioner Androulla Vassiliou.

Creative Europe's MEDIA sub-programme will support 2 000 cinemas and 800 European films in the next seven years. The bulk of MEDIA's funding is targeted at supporting the distribution of European films outside their country of origin.

Main results of the study:

  • 97% of Europeans watch films at least occasionally;
  • Europe produces more than 1 000 films a year, but most are only seen in the country where they are made and relatively few films are screened abroad;
  • 68% of respondents download films for free and 55% watch free streamed films via their computer or handheld device. Free-downloaders tend to be young, urban and educated, keen film viewers interested in the diversity of films but frustrated by the cost and narrow catalogues of legal offers;
  • 14% of respondents have no access to cinemas within 30 minutes of their home. This figure rises to 37% in Romania, 27% in Lithuania and 16% in Croatia;
  • European films are considered original and thought provoking, but audiences are critical about "slow or heavy" storylines;
  • most people choose the film they are going to view just before going to the cinema, with trailers being the most effective marketing tool;
  • 28% of Europeans watch films in festivals, and;
  • nearly 50% of respondents have taken advantage of film education programmes, for example in schools, universities and cinema clubs.

The study profiles audiences, splitting them into five groups: 'hyperconnected movie addicts', 'rushed independent movie selective', 'mainstream blockbuster lovers', 'occasional hit grazers' and 'movie indifferents'. European film lovers are most represented in the first two groups.

Hyperconnected movie addicts (24% of European film viewers) are typically digital natives and the group contains more males and young adults than the others. They live mainly in urban areas, are highly engaged in media and culture and well-equipped with media devices.


Rushed independent movie selectives (22% of European film viewers) are typically working adults with few or no children, women aged 26-50 on average incomes, with a fairly high level of education and working in professions such as academia and teaching.

Mainstream blockbuster lovers (16% of European film viewers) mainly watch US blockbusters. Their socio-demographic profile and media equipment are average. They live in less urban areas and have more limited access to cinemas.

Occasional hit grazers (21% of European film viewers) watch fewer films, and take less notice of media and culture in general. They are typically younger, semi-urban or rural women at school or in the middle of their studies. Despite watching fewer films, their interest in European films is relatively strong.

Movie indifferents (16% of European film viewers) watch the fewest films by far, and, in general, are cut-off from most cultural activities other than TV and video games. They are typically either young or older men, less educated, poorer, living in rural and semi-urban areas and the least equipped with media devices and services. They are little interested in film apart from action and comedy, and mostly watch US blockbusters.


One of Creative Europe's main objectives is to strengthen the demand for films, to improve their distribution across borders, and to reach new audiences in Europe and beyond. The study aims to help help policy-makers across Europe to increase the effectiveness of their cultural policies and initiatives.

Creative Europe was launched on 1 January and has a budget of €1.46 billion for the next seven years. It builds on the success of the Culture and MEDIA programmes, which have supported the cultural and audiovisual sectors for more than 20 years. The programme will allocate at least 56% of its budget for the MEDIA sub-programme.

The MEDIA sub-programme supports the EU film and audiovisual industries in the development, distribution and promotion of their work. It also funds training and market access schemes, which also have a new international dimension covering non-EU member countries. MEDIA will allocate nearly €6 million a year to encourage innovation in the audiovisual sector. Under this objective, in 2014, it will launch three initiatives to support audience development and film literacy, international co-productions and video games.

More information

European Commission study on audience behaviour

European Commission: MEDIA and Creative Europe

Androulla Vassiliou's website

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