There are more than 3,000 video-on-demand services available in Europe, with nearly 580 mainly offering movies. An increasing number of services are available through applications for tablets or smart televisions. Subscription video-on-demand services have proliferated in recent months, with 76 available at the last count. However, tracking down the origin of some of these services can be tricky.

The European Audiovisual Observatory has the task of identifying these services.
The Observatory is a public body set up in 1992 to gather and distribute information on the audiovisual industry in Europe. Its MAVISE database has previously provided information on more than 10,000 television channels established and received in the European Union.

The database has been expanded to include the availability of on-demand audiovisual services in Europe and is being launched at the Cannes Film Market.

The Observatory identifies 3,087 on-demand audiovisual services available in Europe, including catch-up television, various kinds of video-on-demand services and video services from newspapers.

There are 447 on-demand movie services established in the European Union. 48 are identified as being established in the United Kingdom, 30 of which are aimed at the local market, with a further 18 targeting other territories. There are 34 in France and 33 in Germany, the majority of them addressing the national market.

Luxembourg hosts 86 such services, 84 of which target other markets, including iTunes and Netflix. Sweden hosts 36, many of which address the Nordic countries. The Czech Republic hosts 31, with 19 of them aimed at other countries, including various versions of on demand services for HBO. There are 27 services established in Switzerland, of which 15 are aimed at other markets.

More than 130 on-demand movie services targeting one or more European counties are established outside the European Union.

The database lists over 200 services targeting Europe that are established or assumed to be established in the United States, including 123 film services.

Around 45% of the 920 video-on-demand services in the database are operated by American groups, either from the United States or via subsidiaries in Europe.

Over half of the video on demand services available in one country in the European Union are established in another. This development in the cross-border provision of on-demand audiovisual services may make it difficult to implement measures laid down by the most stringent national regulations for the promotion of European works or for contributing to production funding.

“The establishment of a database on on-demand audiovisual services in Europe is in some way Utopian,” says André Lange of the European Audiovisual Observatory.

“The complexity of this field is growing and the lack of transparency is rather worrying, especially as far as the precise identification of the company providing the services and its country of establishment are concerned. At least a third of the identifications that we provide in the database are plausible but are in fact based on assumptions. This lack of transparency with regard to producing companies definitely does not conform to European or national transparency standards relating to publishing or media ownership.”

The MAVISE database has been developed under contract from the European Commission. It attempts to classify on-demand audiovisual services by country of establishment, country of reception, service type, mode of distribution and business model, which as the European Audiovisual Observatory notes, is not always easy.

This is significant for the model of audiovisual regulation within the European Union, which is based on the country of origin.