More people ditch TV for streamers; Dutch MPs want more investment in Dutch productions
Fewer people paid for a television subscription last year, according to national research published by NMO on Wednesday. Instead, they have increasingly subscribed to one or more streaming services such as Netflix. The increased popularity of streaming services has some Dutch members of parliament again calling for a law to force the services to invest in programming for the Dutch market.
Watching television and video via the internet is enough for those who subscribe to streaming services as an alternative to watching television broadcasts. The services allow customers to watch a wide variety of films and series on demand and on multiple devices, including televisions. It is also possible to watch live TV via the internet in many cases, making a television subscription unnecessary.
Last year, more than 9 percent of households did not have a TV subscription, compared to 7.5 percent the year before. Young people up to and including 34 years of age, single-person households and higher educated people are far more likely to only have an internet subscription.
Households also increasingly subscribe to multiple streaming services. For example, 18 percent of households had four or more services, compared to 14 percent a year earlier. This may be because more and more streaming services have been added in recent years.
The average number of services per household was 1.9 last year, compared to 1.7 in 2021. The vast majority of people, almost 65 percent, use the streaming service Netflix.
MPs want streaming services to invest in Dutch productions
Members of the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, debated whether streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ should be obliged to invest in Dutch productions. It will be the first bill that Cabinet member Gunay Uslu , the state secretary for culture and media, will defend in the main debate hall. A parliamentary majority is in favor of such a law, but the left-wing opposition parties and Cabinet coalition party D66 prefer making the law stricter.
Streaming services with an annual turnover of at least 10 million euros per year must spend 4.5 percent of this on Dutch productions should Uslu’s proposal to change the Media Act become a law. The government already spends 150 million euros annually to support Dutch films, series and documentaries and wants to ensure that companies themselves also make a contribution. The proposal is estimated to generate an additional €40 million per year, and is believed to be needed because Dutch productions are in danger because of the extensive competition from foreign production companies with high budgets.
Left-wing opposition parties GroenLinks and PvdA want this amount to end up entirely with independent Dutch producers. Mohammed Mohandis of PvdA said he is even considering voting against the bill if it does not state that a fixed percentage will end up with Dutch producers. "Then this law means nothing." Another left-wing opposition party, SP, also thinks it is a good idea to arrange this, and D66 is open to it. Uslu also wants a fixed percentage to go to independent producers, but wants to regulate this outside the law.
GroenLinks argued that companies should invest more money in productions from the Netherlands. The party wants that figure to rise from Uslu’s proposed 4.5 percent, to 6 percent of the annual turnover they achieve in the Netherlands. D66 and PvdA want more streaming companies to be imposed this obligation. Namely all companies with a turnover in the Netherlands starting at 2 million euros, instead of the proposed 10 million euros.
A Dutch production does not have to be in the Dutch language to qualify under Uslu’s law. An English-language film version of The Diary of Anne Frank could also be considered as the main theme relates to the history of the Netherlands and the production is based on a Dutch book. As long as films, series or documentaries meet two of the four criteria set by Uslu, it is considered to be a Dutch production.
Another possible point of discussion is the timeline in which that money should be spent. Does this have to be done immediately after the turnover has been achieved or can it also be carried forward two or three years? That would give streaming companies the opportunity to potentially give a green light to more expensive films, series and documentaries.
"This is starting to look very much like a disguised subsidy measure for the sector," said Pim van Strien of the VVD in criticism of the measure. He said he thinks it is unfair if streaming companies are not allowed to decide for themselves how they invest money in Dutch productions. According to him, the state secretary favors "a certain type of content from a certain group of creators" if a fixed percentage goes to independent producers.
Reporting by ANP