On 21 October 2020, the ALICE project held an online meeting on the theme of 'Promotion and Audiences', with a focus on theatrical, linear (scheduled TV shows) and non-linear (on-demand) distribution models. Led by Working Group 3, dedicated to distribution, the meeting included project partners as well as experts from the Slovak Film Institute and the division of audiovisual law from the Ministry of Culture. It resulted in concrete proposals to initiate a joint discussion with distributors, broadcasters and regulators in order to facilitate access for audiences to European animated content, in the new reality of COVID-19.

Starting with an overview of the distribution model in Slovakia and of the difficulties short films face to reach audiences, the debate was then extended to include issues regarding the distribution of regional, national and European short and long-form animated content. The participants specifically addressed two timely topics underlying the question of the distribution: dubbing and the definition of “European” content.

Only dubbed animated productions can easily be broadcasted across Europe, especially if the film is intended for children. As essential as it is for films to travel, dubbing is also a complex and expensive process that heavily affects production costs. To address this issue, some initiatives has been proposed, as the one from the European federation of animation producers, Animation in Europe, asking the next Creative Europe MEDIA Program to include support for dubbing in its 2021- 2027 plan. This plan, soon to be released, will serve as a reference material for the next considerations of Working Group 3.

The second burning topic in Europe, pertaining to the creation of a European Label for audiovisual work, concerns the very definition of a European audiovisual work. The stakes are high for producers, as the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive (“AVMDS”) provides European content quota obligations for broadcasters. The working group is willing to explore the idea of a European distribution platform specialized in animation. This was an idea brought in a previous session with professionals of the sector.

With that in mind, ALICE Catalan partner, the audiovisual Producers Federation PROA, proposed to the working group to organize two online distribution panels. The panels would both happen virtually, during the upcoming editions of Barcelona-based kids animation festival “My First Festival”, with the collaboration of PROANIMATS, the Catalan Association of Animation Producers, and – at the proposal of ALICE partner from Apulia - the Italian “Cartoons on the Bay”. The first one would focus on theatrical distribution of European animated films, and the second one on the challenges for traditional broadcasters to embrace the transition from linear to non-linear distribution. Bringing together distribution experts from the different regions of ALICE (eg. Catalonia, Spain; Slovakia; Apulia, Italy; Wallonia, Belgium; Hauts-de-France, France; and Rzeszow, Poland), the objective of these panels is to provide an overview of current and future distribution in Europe, as well as potential solutions to bring more animated audiovisual productions to the screen.

With the pandemic causing another step-change in media consumption habits, ALICE proposes to hold another event, be it either a discussion panel or a webinar, devoted to the new distribution models that are forming on different online platforms (including social media and the web). This event would feature selected experts including new media creative companies who would share their approach and experience in distributing original content and adapting their business models to the fast-changing distribution reality.

It has become a habit for ALICE to hold productive and passionate meetings, and this time the meeting raised important considerations about what the future holds for animation in Europe. With three events in preparation at the moment, the next weeks promise to be intense for the project distribution working group. Many discussions will certainly be going on. This is good news for the animation industry.